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Coming Into Being 
Among The 
Australian Aborigines 

A Study of tke ProctcAtIve 
af tire I'Tdtivc TnLcft of AusbaiLi 




AmsI'aiit-PmfesEor of AnAtomyi Ifcv York Ueu vanity 

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Vllt B 

ForeWoEtl b 



Pli.D. {CnuCOv), O.Sv. (ixuiilaD), Hoa. D^.Sc. {Harvarjj ; 

PiofttsOT of AnlLropalo^ in tLt Umvcnitv aI IxmJon j 

McmLer of tlie Royal AotJenty of HoUiwil 




Ftra PiiiSthJ 

library, new DELHI. 

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rrapKBH AysTiN and sons* lto^ K£jrrroiu> 



"TU of me inwRlEttiiBs wlictiier in phUwpltjr or ttmtd *daw^ ii » mijti! 
tm^friog dwtovny of ofuing camadialom ond to qusdon die ^cn imdl our oonccpdaxu 
m elated HP,»d if rwesiMydfci^MeihesfymlspiBd viewJir*(diadby*t«^ 
Juum VOj* SaOH, Hiitory tf Jfeftiny, OEfiiixl, iSyOt 


Preface . 

Forewoko by Professor B* Malinowski 


I. Introduction 

IL The Arunta, the Type Pattern of Ausiraaian 
Culture.. . 

ni. The Procreative Beliefs of the Central Australian 

IV, The Procreative Beliefs of the Native Tribes of 
Northern Australia. 

V. The Procreative Beliefs of the Native Tribes of 
North-eastern Australia, Queensland, and 
Cape York Peninsula. 

VI, The PaocREAnvE Beliefs op the Native Tribes of 
North-western Austraua. 

VII. The Procreative Beliefs of the Native Tribes of 
Western Australia 

VIIL The Procreative Beuefs of the Native Tribes of 
Southern, South-eastern, and Eastern Australia 

DC. A Summary Account of the Procreative Beliefs 
OF THE Australian Aborigines . , , , 

X. The Critical Theories Relating to the Pro- 
creative Beliefs of the Australian Aborigines , 

XI. Phaluc Ceremonies and So-called Phallic Wobship 


Xin. Maternity and Paternity in Australia 

XrV. Tradition, Experience, and Belief 

Literature Cited. 







I lO 



l 8 t 












I. Witchetty Grubs. The larva of the big Cossos Moth. 

(From Basedow, The Australian Aboriginal) 

II . TIic Ratappa Stone, showing the hole through which 

the Kurunas emerge. (From Spencer and Gillen, 
The Arunia. Courtesy of Mactnill^ and Co.) . 

in. (fl) Nurtunja of the large lizard totem. (From Spencer 
and Gillen, The Arunta. Courtesy of Macmillan 
and ^^o.) 

(^i) A typical J^aninga^ water totem, (From Spencer 
and Gillen, The Arunta. Courtesy of Macmillan 
and Co,) 

]V. Nurtmjd of the ant totem A&nhi.nhi{la. The lines of 
down represent roots of wattle trees amongst which 
the women dig for ants. The performers represent 
women, (From Spencer and Gillen, The Arunta, 
Courtesy of Macmillan and Co,) . , . - 


Fig. 1. Outline Map of Central Australia . 

Fio. a. Ochre drawing of Kuhadja men, nortli of Wickliam 
River, Northern Territory (x J.) (From Basedow, 
Tlie Australian Abori^nal), . . • • 

Fig. j. Charcoal drawing of a Kukadja man named Mongarra- 
pia^a dancing at a sacred fire with an ancestral 
female. Pigeon Hole, Victoria River ( x J.) Tracing. 
(From Basedow, The Australian Aboriginal) 

Ftc. 4. The area (shaded) over which the rite of subindsLon 
is practised. (After Basedow, Subindsion) . 
















Tbcrt probalsly no naoft dilBaili lubjAa id the whoJ^ field «f ihe Mid)iv|3olQgy ^ 
ki4^cr f iWt Tb-T" lIuLt QDfljQBEiing ibe d^cv iiboiit thejpHcnoltbRM of wd 

cocciptiDD."—R. KARin^tj TA# Cinff^jwwi &/ M# A/mrk^ /n^am^ ^9^ 4* 4- 

In the spring of 1929, at the suggestion of Professor Bronislaw 
h^Hnowski, and the kindly connivance of Professor Edward Westcr- 
maidt, 1 was persuaded to read a pper at the latter’s seminar in 
Cultural Antliropology at the London School of Economics^ which 
was afterwards published in ZI 4 e Realisi (October, 1919) under the 
title of'* Tlie Procreative Theories of Priimrive Man an essay which, 
according to some of my friends, should more properly liave been 
called ** The Sexual Life of Neandertlial Man I In that paper 1 very 
briefly considered the types of ideas and beliefs which various 
primitive peoples liold concerning die process of coming into being, 
and having classified them I cursorily proceeded 10 discuss tliose 
theories or beliefs in which the procreative process appeared to be in 
no way associated in any causal manner witli the act of coition. 
My purpose was to siiow, in the short time at my disposal, that the 
ignorance of the relationship between coitus and conception exhibited 
by such peoples as the Australian ahor^nes and the Trobriand 
Islanders of North-wesiern Melanesia was a perfectly comprehensihle 
one, and perfectly compatible with all that was comprised within 
the native’s own experience. My paper was very kindly received, 
and naturally the presence of both Professor Westerraarck and 
Professor ^tll^nowski—wdiose own book on the Stxual life of 
Savages was |ust then off the press—made the discussion which 
follow'ed a very lively one. It was, however, evident to me from tliis 
discussion that a fully worked out, though more narrowly conoeti- 
traied, account of the subject of my pper would be well w'Oith under¬ 
taking, and I dierefore resolved as soon as circunistances would permit, 
to embark upon such a study. Academic dudes and somewhat 
more urgent studies in other fields have, however, prevented me (rom 
acting upon this resolve until the present time. And now that I have 
completed rfTs study it is obvious why it should be dedicated to 
Professors Wcsterraarck and Malinowski, two scholars who were my 
first preceptors in Cultural Antliropology. 

Professor Westemiarck, more tlian a tjuaiter of a century ago. 


in a prefatory note to a now classical work by G. C. Wheeler, 
The Ttihe and Intenrdxil Relations in AmtroUa (London, 19to), 
wrote that '* Next 10 sociological field work -.. there are, within this 
branch of study, no other investigations so urgently needed as mono¬ 
graphs on some definite class of social phenomena or institutions 
among a certain group of related tribes, A comparative treatment of 
some social institution as it exists throughout the unchnUzed races 
of die world undoubtedly has its value. It bears out general resem¬ 
blances as well as local and racial differences. It also, in many cases, 
enables die specialist to explain facts which he could hardly under¬ 
stand in full if his knowledge were restricted to a limited area. But 
at the tune the comparative study suffers from certain defects 
whicii seem to be wellnigh inseparable from the prosecution of so 
great a task. A social institution is not an isolated phenomenon, but 
is closely connected with a variety of facts. It is largely influenced 
by local conditions, by the physical environment, by the circumstances 
by whiclt the people in question lives, by its habits and mental 
characteristics. All these factors cm properly be taken into account 
when the investigation is confined to a single people or one ethnic 

Follow-ing the principles laid down in this passage, tliere appeared 
in 1913, Professor Malinowski's admiiahle study, The FamUy Among 
the Australian Aborigines, Since that time both Professor Malinowski 
and his students have according to the same scheme investigated a 
variety of social phenomena in Oceania and in Africa, with the most 
fruitful results.*^ 

In the present work a single ** social phenomenon ” as it is found 
expressed in a single “ etlmic unity ”, namely, among the Australian 
aborigines, is Investi^ted in detail. Tlie social phenomenon is here 
represented by die procreative beliefs of the Australians, their doctrines 
and the beliefs which they hold concerning the nature of what we 
call conception, pregnancy, or the process of coming into being. 

Ever since the publication in 1899, of Spencer and Gillen’s The 
Native Tnhes of Central Australia, in which it was for the first time 
made known that there w'cre aboriginal peoples in existence in Australia 
that possessed no knowledge whatsoever of the relationship existing 

i Bn s^rgpnoiriM ^ 1931:1 j 7 ^ Sixual Ufi 

l.onjofti 1939 i Gwdtnt and 1 ^ ft. Firth, Primidv* 

EttsfWTvcd 4/^Mf JVIm^ ZdildiiJ Maofif Ldtidon-f 19^ r Law arid Or in 

I 1934 2 K. F- Fonu&et SwictrtFj af Daisp Londorip 1931; Ma/uu Mtiigionf Phila- 
ddphb, 193T i 1 - Maif, An AfAiaa Ptapid tii tA< Tmtntidik Cmury^ LocidjDiir 193.^ ^ H, Povdo-- 
fiukgitf Zift ^ Zvtju, I 9 J 4 ; Aurlrcy L Ridivds, Z/tjn^f and In a Sava^i 

TfiA*f numeral din-'n- 



bet'ft een coims and pregnancy, there has been a gjeat d^l of discussion 
concerning the nature of thi^ ignorance. By sorae^ like Professor 
Westermarcky* or the late Professor Carveth Read,^ the reality of 
this alleged nescience has been virtually denied, whilst others^ like 
Andrew Lang, have admitted the existence of the nescience, but have 
considered that it represents a purely secondary structure developed 
in accommodation to certain cultural requirements. There have 
been otlier theories too, and tliere has been some disagreement: con¬ 
cerning the actual state of the beliefs held by particular tribes or hordes, 
so chat there exists at tire present dim not a little confusion and a 
great deal of uncertainty with r4?spect to die real nature of the pro- 
creative beliefs held by the native tribes of Australia. In die present 
study an attempt has been made to gather t<^edier all the available 
evidence which in any way bears upon the procreadve beliefs of the 
Australian aborigines, and to subject this evidence to an examination 
which may serve to provide us with a proper estimate of die real 
state and character of these beliefs. 

Naturally, the bare examination of the beliefs themselves would 
hardly be sufficient to render an understanding of their character 
more than superficial. The wresting of such a belief from its cultural, 
that is to say, its functional context, and the study of it as an isolate 
would be to do violence to it, as if one were to attempt to study the 
physiology of an organ dissociated from die body of which it is a 
part. In the present work the ideas of the Australians relating to 
procreation are studied in reladon to the culture of whidi they form 
an integral part. Fortunately, the Australians are both culturally 
and physically distinguished in rather more than a general way by a 
homogeneity, an ** ethnic unity ”, w'hich gready simplifies the task 
of die student of these maners^ Moreover, their physical environ¬ 
ment, not excepting the coastal as compared with the inland tribes, 
is relatively much die same. There may be more vegetation and 
water in one region than in another, but within a certain range of 
variation the sunlight and temperature,® the rocky formadon of the 
land, and the kinds of plant and animal life are to a large extent 
similar. To study a belief or group of beliefs in tektion to the culture 
of which it forms a part to the exclusion of any consideration of the 

^ [ muA rnifess chai I as id^ the of say trihe 

where \i conft^civd to be coKipl£i£!y of itXuaJ 

nf HumM 

* No PaKenuiy^” /pzir. xlwi, t^iS^ 14S-11& 

* C. E. P. LondoOp 1^4-161. 


fbmework, the environment, in which iliat culture functions, would 
be, in tlie present connecriou at any rate, to deprive oneself of n^y 
valuable aids in the attempt to throw some light upon the various 
problems which we shall have to consider, if not to commit a fault so 
egregious as the study of the belief apart from its cultural context. 
The conditions under which cultural evente come into being and are 
developed and integrated, may or may not reflect llie influence of 
environmental factors, but however this may be, the investigator 
cannot afford to neglect their study in relation to such events. Tliis 
is particularly the case in the present inquiry where the biological and 
physical factors, even though the most strictly pertinent of them 
may not be consciously recognized by the natives themselves, provide 
the materials out of wliich, upon the woof of imagination and mytli, 
their beliefs are woven. These elements, indeed, in their larger 
extension form the greater part of die native's physical environment, 
the rocky promontories, the water-holes, the rivers, die sea, the winds, 
and die clouds. And there is, of course, the individual himself, and all 
other individuals, and the variegated natural phenomena of life 
associated with them. Ail these things, and more, are intimately 
and virtually indissolubly hound up with the social Ufc of the natives, 
so that the snidy of any single trait must necessarily involve the 
study of both its cultural and physical relationships, the whole system 
of related co-ordinates, as It were, of which that trait is but a single 

While I have endeavoured lO assemble all the available data having 
any bearing upon die procreative beliefs of the Australians, I have, 
of course, been most concerned to arrive at its correct meaning. The 
observations here brought together have for the most part been taken 
from the accounts of first-hand observers, and as far as possible, an 
attempt has been made to present them in die order in which diey 
were first reported and in relation to the territories oonceming the 
tribes of which they were made. Tlius, die central tribes are treated 
first, the tionhem next, and so on. In this way the historicil as well 
as the geographical relations of the evidence may be seen in some 
sort of perspective. In discussing the observations reported by so 
many observers it has been quite impossible to put each one into the 
framework of the particular culture in which it funedons, but as I 
have already pointed out, the lebtively great cultural homogeneity 
of the aboriginal tribes of the Australian continent helps to simplify 
matters very considerably, for In virtue of this relative cultural unity 



it has been possible to take a single tribal ctilture as a type for the 
whole of Austialia, and liaving described it, treat of its procreative 
doctrines and belief in relation to that culture. Concurrently, without 
directly referring to them, it will become apparent how the similar 
beliefs of each tribe must similarly function within die context of 
their own culture. 

Tlie culrare which 1 have selected as most typical is that ot the 
Arunta of dtc Alice Spring district of Central Australia, the reason 
for this choice will become clear in the text. With the description 
of that culture in outline, the observations as given in the various 
accounts of our authorities concerning the beliefs lelaiing to conception 
held by a large variety of Australian tribes are then presented in the 
manner already indicated. These observations are then summarized 
and examined in relation to rite critical literature which has grown 
up about them. 

Tlie critical examination of all those objections which have from 
time to rime been urged by different students of the subject against 
the too-ready acceptance as a fact of the rial ignorance of the 
Australians concerning the allegedly obvious facts of procreation 
occupies a large portion of the second part of this volume. This 
examination has involved the consideration of the biological, physical, 
and demographic evidence, and also the analysis of certain time- 
honoured theories wliich are in these connections currently accepted 
by many ethnologists. 

In a final chapter 1 have made an attempt at an analysis of the 
psychological background of the procreaiive belieis of the Australians, 
of the mechanics by means of which these beliefs are maintained, 
and of the appemeptive processes which make the reception of die 
ideas involved not only easily possible, but necessary and inevitable. 
My procedure lias been, as far as possible, to allow the facts to speak 
out boldly and unprejudicedly for themselves. I have, of course, 
endeavoured to bring the relevant facts into proper relation with 
one anotlier in order that the effective meaning of the events they 
represent may be unambiguously understood. Beyond what the 
facts themselves have rendered cogent 1 have not thought it necessary 
to go. 

Evolutionary generalizations concerning the facts discussed liave 
for the most part been avoided, not that there is in principle any 
objection to such generalizations, but because in a work which Is 
primarily devoted to the purely objective historical study of the 



facts as dtcy exist in one fairly homogeneous cultural group there can 
be no room for such speculations. 

Whether there exists evidence in the belief and myths of other 
peoples which indicate that they, too, were at one time ignorant of 
the facts of procreation, is a matter which falls outside the scope of 
the present volume. The late Sir Sidney Hartland has very fully 
dealt viith this aspect of the subject in hU Primiiiye Paurmtyy x vols, 
(London, 1909^1910). The reader interested in the evolutionary 
treatment of the procreative beliefs of mankind is recommended to 
consult that work, and also the earlier work by the same audior, 
Tht Legend of Perseus, 3 vols, (London, 1894-5-6). In the first 
chapter of this book, however, in presenting the historical background 
of the events which have led to this study, a conspectus of the 
subject is taken which necessarily makes clear its broad evolutionary 
implications, and in Chapter X die subject is briefly touched upon. 

It must be understood from the outset that the procreative beliefs 
of the Australians represent but a special case of the belief in super¬ 
natural birth, a belief which assumes a large variety of forms and has 
a wellnigh universal distribution. The general structure of the 
Australian beliefs is by tto means unique or peculiar to them, but what 
is pmibaf to them is the emphasis which is placed upon certain 
elements and the total lack of emphasis associated with other elements 
in that structure. These matters we shall consider m some demil. 

It is perhaps necessary for me to sate here that in this book I liave 
no particular axe to grind nor any method of procedure to vindicate, 
unless it be the method of the objective historical investigator who 
observes, uncovers contradictions, resolves them, states the facts, 
analyses and cbssifies them, and presents die most probable con¬ 
clusions to be drawn from them. By the use of such processes as 
these, errors of judgment can arise only either from the hmits of the 
person making use of them or from the limits of the material itself. 
In the present instance the material as-ailahle is, on die whole, as 
satisfactory as one has a right to expect, so that any shortcomings 
in its treatment, and unhappily I am aware that there ate many, must 
be laid entirely at the author's door. 

In quodng from the original sources in the pages wliich follow, 
I have adhered smedy to the author’s text; no attempt has been made 
10 reduce the spelling of native names and terms to a uniform scheme, 
each author is allowed to give bis own rendering of native words— 
the resulting differences will not cause the reader a moment’s trouble. 



Phonetic signs have, however, been reduced to tlieir common 

To Professor Franz Boas and particularly to Professor Ruth 
Benedict, both of the Department of Anthropology, Oalurahia 
University, I owe thanks for a number of vaiu^le criticisms and 
stiSBCstions wliich have served to make this booh a far better one 
than it would otherwise have been, but who, it must be said—tn 
die time-honoured but very necessary disclaimer—are not responsible 
for views with which they may well disagree. 

To Professor Bronislaw Malinowski, my teacher and fnend, I am 
indebted for the original stimulus wWch led me to undertake the 
present w'ork, and I am particularly gratehil to him for the excellent 
Foreword which he has contributed to this volume. 

Thanks arc due to the following publishers for permission to 
quote lengtliy excerpts from the works published by diem: 
Macmillan and Co., Ltd., London, Spencer and Gillen's JAe Amnta^ 
Th Native Tribes of Central Australia^ B, Spencer's Native Trlies 
of the Northern Territory of Attstralia, A- W. How itds The Nath-e 
Tribes of South-East Australia^ and Home and Alston's Savage 
Australia ; Mrs. Herbert Basedow and F. W. Precce and Son’s, 
Adelaide, Herbert Basedow's The Australian Ahoriginal'j George 
Routledgc and Sons, Ltd,, B, Malinowski’s The Sexual Life of Savages, 
I am also gready obliged to the editors and publishers of tlie scientific 
journals from which 1 have allowed myself to quote fully. 

Finally it is perhaps necessary to state Iierc that when in the 
following pages 1 speak of "Australians" I am referring to the 
aborigines of that continent alone, and to none else. 


Eosl NH 

ijfA /iw— 

iSrA yew, 


by B, Mausiowski 

Is the savage really a savagje ? This question covers the fundamental 
problems of the modern Science of Man* It might, perhaps, bo put 
in a less epigraramaiic and less paradoxical form; are simpler 
cultures of the same nature as the more developed ones? Is the 
“ primitive ’* man’s mind built on a diferent pattern from that of his 
more civilized brother ? Could human insdniuons, such as the family 
and the state, property and marriage, have been in thetr beginnings 
almn.'tf the oppcsitc of wlwt they are now—or have they always been 
essentially die same? Such questions dominate recent discussions 
among the relevant school of anthropology* 

According to one of these two modern divergent views, cultures 
in general, and primidve cultures more especially, are not to be 
compared with each other. They have to be studied intuitively, by 
individual appreciation of eadi. According to tlie other view, the 
“ savage”, the “ primitive ", the ** aboriginal" is a human being like 
any other. Every culture is in its essence built on the same pattern. 
To speak about tribal or cultural “ genius ” is no more than a metaphor. 
And all this means that tliere can be a really sdendhe approach to the 
study of human cultures by die comparative method, aiming at the 
discovery of general laws of culture. On this last view, which is shared 
also by die present writer, die savage is not really a savage, not any 
more, that is, than you or I. Humanity is one Throughout, and the 
science of culture is possible. 

Older anthropology was a detached and leisurely pursuit. In the 
good old pre-war days, the collection of curios in a museum and of 
curiosities in the ethnographer’s note-book formed the delight of those 
w'ho could afford to collect, to travel, and to read at leisure. In those 
days anthropology was concerned with a world in parts at least 
genuinely exotic. The aeroplane, the wireless, and film technique had 
not yet effected the paradoxical give and take whicli makes us now 
doubt when listening to an apparently native txuie in Central Africa 
whether it liad been bom there or imported from some far away 
tribe, or had arrived there on the short wave, via New York or Los 



Angeles and London, from some old African slave colony in die 

Pre-war anthropology was also aristocratic, as most leisurely pursuits 
must he. It was concerned with man's pedigrees, origins, and ante¬ 
cedents. It firmly believed in Evolution ; in the rise of man from a 
lowly beginning to an exalted station in life. Dr. Ashley-Montagu has 
many interesting and enlightening tilings to say on this subject in his 
first chapter. 

About a quarter of a century ago there came the first change towards 
a more rigidly scientific point of view. We then became aware that 
anthropology had an important task to fulfil as the foundation of the 
science of culture. The results of ethnographic observation were the 
nearest approach to what the physicist, the chemist, and the biologist 
obtained tlirough eitperiments in a well-equipped laboratory. In order 
to obtain scientific laws of correlation, it was necessary to survey the 
widest range of cultural variation, and this was only possible through 
tlie work of the field anthropologist. Instead of building vast edifices 
of reconstruction, diffiisionist or evolutionary, it seemed better to 
turn to the analysis of each culture as a going concern. In a subsequent 
comparative computation, this led us to the discovery of laws in 
cultural process, and the definirion of the fundamental concepts under¬ 
lying all cultural reality. This *' functional" approach was nothing 
but the vindication of a strictly empirical inspiration in theory, and 
conversely, the demand that observation should be guided by know¬ 
ledge of the laws and principles of culture as a dynamic reality. Tlie 
general tendency of this school was to make the savage essentially 
human, and to find elements of the primitive in higher civilizations. 
In the last instance, functional analysis aimed at the establishment of 
a common measure of all cultures, simple and developed. Western 
and Oriental, atcric and tropical. 

Quite recently diere has appeared yet another sdiool of thought, 
this time in reaction ^inst the scientific claims and effort at standard- 
izarton of the Functional method. The Functional theory of culture 
maintains that the general scaffolding of culture, more concretely 
the fundamental insdtutions and aspects, are the sameevetywhere. To 
a certain extent Functionalism tends to neglect, or at least to underrate 
the diversities of culmres, as well as the individualiites of what is 
sometimes called the “tribal genius”, or “racial” and “national” 

In reaction to all this, and under the infiuence of Flsychoanalysis 


and Behaviourism, of Spcciglerian metaphysics and the Marxian 
con\iction that social engineering is more important than social 
philosophy, the new theory has crystallised its principles. Its adherents 
empliasize die intompadbility and the tnoommensiuability of Iiuman 
cultures, *' No common measure of cultural phenomena can be found,” 
we are told by Dr. E. Benedict. The attempt to make the study of 
cultures scientific, in the sense of postulating the existence of generaliza¬ 
tions and universally valid laws, is deprecated. Professor Kroeber, 
championing the historical method, tells us that all historical defini- 
ttons are in their very essence subjective 1 n the same article 
(American Anthropologist, 1935) lie emphasizes the subjective, artistic, 
and intuitive approach. Professor Boas himself has recently expressed 
his view that, since “ the relations between different aspects of culture 
follow the most diverse patterns ”, they “ do not lend diemselves 
profitably to generalizations ” (Introduction to Dr. Rudi Benedict, 
Paiterm of Cuharej. On an earlier occasion in his monumental ardcle 
J.V. ** Anthropology ” in the Encychpadia of the Social Sciences, he has 
clearly stated his opinion iliat " the laws of cultural process are vague, 
insipid, and useless 

In all this I see the foundations of a new theory j it might be 
described as “ Cultural Monadology”, Each culture has a unicpie 
individuality of its own. It is the creation of its "tribal genius”, 
an objeedvized expression of some collecdve entity, which spins its 
realities out of its inner determinism. Since eacli culture is a law unto 
itself, die inner detcrmitiism is so individual dint to tackle it with 
an abstract apparatus of universally valid concepts, laws, and generaliza¬ 
tions, must remain futile, A theory of culture with a world-wide 
validity, such as implied in attempts of the functional school, must 
from the very outset be rejected as fruitless. 

Personally, 1 think that this new reaction—for as far as Professor 
Boas is concerned, the utterances qnoted represent a new phase 
in his outlook—goes a little too far, I am still convinced that the search 
for general laws of cultural process and of cultural reality will remain 
the scientific task of anthropology. There is no doubt that, when in 
field-work we pass &om one culture to another, we come to feel that 
some new “ tribal genius ” or " national spirit ” is taking sway of us. 
1 myself have confessed that " what interests me really is the study of 
the native is his outlook on things, his Wehanschatmitg, the breath of 
life and reality which he breathes and by which he lives. Every human 
culture gives its members a definite vision of the world, a definite zest 



of life. In the roamings over human hisiorVj and over the surface 
of the earthj it is die possibility of seeing life and the world from the 
various angles^ peculiar to each culture, that has always charmed rae 
most, and inspired me with real desire to penetrate other cultures, 
to understand oilier types of life ” 192a, p. ^ 17), 

This 1 would now like to correct in the sense that—to quote again 
from the same context—the love of the final synthesis . . . and still 
more the love of the variety and independence of the various cultures 
constitutes the personal and artjsuc inspiration of the field-worker. 
His scientific task lies elsewhere. It consists in translating this variety 
ofcultures into the language of science, which must needs be universally 
human. The analysis of strange^ hypertrophied, exotic customs and 
instttunons into their oonsUmenc elements has convinced me char the 
foundations in ^h of them are essentially universal The love between 
man and woman and the greed for materia] wealth; the lust for power 
and jealousy of sex; the selfless devotion of the mother and the 
antagonism betw'een people who compete at dose quarters—all these 
are to be found everywhere. And besides human passions, propensities 
and appetitles, there are other determining factors equally universal and 
anrenable to scientific observ'ation and analysis^ There is the environ- 
meni, which acts upon man wjih an almost physical determinism^ 
There are such factors as the territorial bases of all forms of human 
grouping. There is the need of using macerial apparatus in the most 
spiritual pursuits, and, in turn, of giving the imprint of the human 
mind to all matt^ shaped for human use,^ 

Although I do not altogether agree with the tendency represented by 
Professor Boas, Dr. R* Benedict, Professor Kroeber, Dr. Margaret 
^fead, Mr* Gregory Bateson, and Dr. Geza R<Sheim, I have 
nevertheless to acknowIedg)e its extreme importance and the value 
of the corrective which it protides to the Functional Mediod. I there¬ 
fore welcome the present hook, in -^'hich Dr* Ashley-Montagu gives 
perhaps the most lucid, sdenilfic, and convincing, as well as most 
consistent and moderate expression of this latest point of view in 
anthropology. The book may, in my opinion, turn out to be a bridge 
between the two methods* There is perhaps a partial failure on the 
part of the “ funeponaiist to recognbie that intuition must be mote 
fully used in anthropology ^ and on the part of the “ culrural mona- 

J ] hn^'C; d^doped riiii ai^lnncAt briefly ifl tfty aftidlc Ciilpirt Sa a Dererminiiitt 

of Bthdvtouf ** ill Ptsetari l^turmbung Human BtAavwuf, Tccraitcxury Pubtkariciu, 

tfliT t « gnMCer jta fhe prtidc *' Cultunj ** in ibe Social 

by £. ft- A- Sdignmi ^ K JohwrL 



dologist ” lo admii that geneialtz^dons are necessary eve.n for the 
simplest description of an exotic culture. 

1 regard it as a great lionotir to have this book dedicated to myself, 
in conjunedon with Edward Westermaxek, to whose personal teacliing 
and TO whose work 1 owe more than to any other sdendiic inhuetice* 
I am also glad to w'rire this unconvendonal preface to an linconven- 
tional book; as far as I know, it is not usual to act both as prefacer and 
a$ dedicee. 

This admirable book is unconventional in diat it does not fall readily 
into any of the cuirent categories; it is neither a textbook, nor an 
evolutionary study^ nor yei a piece of plain description. Yet 1 would 
leconunend Dr* A^hley-Montagu's book as the best introduction to 
anthropology, indeed, to die study of social science. It deals with the 
question of primitive nescience of piemity—the most exciting and 
controversial issue in the comparative science of Man. Tltis question 
leads die author directly into the study of kinship and social organiza¬ 
tion, which are here very fiilly treated, The problem also Implies the 
analysis of the savage mind, and the author, a bom philosopher, 
displays a width of oudook and prectsion of analysts which mate his 
book an excellent prolegomena to primitive psychology. NJydiology 
and religion, questions of early knowledge and technology^ come one 
and all under discussion. Every topic is treated with a clarity of vision 
and lucidity of style which will render the book aiiractive as well as 
useiiil to layman and college student alike. 

In one respect, the work is even better dian a textbook. It is □ 
mode! of how edinograpliic material should be surveyed, critically 
digested^ and refriimed in clear convincing conclusions. There is 
perhaps nothing more instructive for the beginner^ whether preparing 
for field-work or for theoretical study In social science, than practice in 
dealing with sources* The use of sources is in many ways more 
difhcuU and baffling in ethnography than in history. It certainly is 
more important; we cannot send any chronicler back mio die reign 
of Charlemagne or Louis XIV, but new field-workers are still pouring 
into the remoter pans of the world among the remnants of primitive 
peoples, and they can make good w here their predecessors have failed. 

The reader will have to follow the detailed analyses of Cliaptec^ II- 
VIII in order to appreciate the excellent handling of material and 
the manner in which Dr. Ashley-Montagu discusses the procreative 
beliefs of die Australian within the relevant context* In following the 
Author, w^e also acquire the coitateraj knowledge about kinship 



and social orgamzation^ religious beliefs, systems of toiernism, and 
magical ritual, all of which is related to the ideas concerning paternity, 
maternity, and descent. In Chapter IX the summing up of the evidence 
shows how much our knowledge has developed on this subjea since 
the original discoveries of Spencer and Gillen. The writer’s verdict 
" that in Australia practically universally, according to orthodox 
belief, pregnancy is regarded as causally unconnected with inter¬ 
course ” (p. 207) will, 1 think, remain the ultimate conclusion of science, 
It is supported by an irreiut^lc body of solid fact, A few apparently 
dissentient views are cflcctively dealt with by Dr. Ashley-Montagu. 
Tlie psychoanalytic findings of Dr. R6heim that the natives have 
a knowledge of physiological paternity w'hicli they subsequently 
“ repress ” seems to me utenable. As Dr, Ashley-Moniagu argues, it 
IS not likely that the Central Australian should have in childhood a 
full knowledge of the physiological process and gradually grow up to 
“ repress " it into an adult belief in spirit children. “ Reprei^ion ” may 
he a valid concept when applied to strong emotional tendencies. It 
can hardly take place with regard to a solid, well established, empirical 
piece of knowledge. Tlie evidence of Dr. Thomson lias already been 
effectively “ repressed ” in a brilliant critical article 
j 4 ntkropologufy i, 1937, pp- 175-183) by Dr. Ashley-Montagu, I think 
that most will agree with the final sentence of Dr. Ashley-Montagu’s 
article: ’M submit that the facts lead to quite an opposite conclusion 
to that arrived at by Mr, ThomsDn ” (i?c. c/r., p. 1S3), 

Professor Lloyd Warner’s account may have re^onal validity with 
regard to his own area, which lies on the periphery of Australian 
culture. To me, however, it appears that he also suffers from the 
confusion between what Dr. Ashley-Montagu calls “ orthodox belief” 
and landom statements of irrekvani opinion. But Dr, Ashley- 
Montagu himself deals with his data so carefully and conclusively that 
there is no need to enlarge upon the issue. 

I personally find the summary given by the Author as convincing 
and well'balanced as any piece of comparative analysis and critical 
examination of souices can be. Equally conclusive, and theoretically 
more interesting, because wider in scope, are tile author’s arguments 
in the next chapter. In discussing tlic various theories of Frazer and 
Andrew Lang, Professor Westermarck and tlie late Dr, Carveth 
Read, the Author is able to develop his views on the fundamental 
questions of primitive kinship, sodal organization, and tlie beginnings 
of human marriage and the family. His arguments throughout are 



scholarly and critical, and they confirra all the sound findings of modem 
science. He unhesitatingly rejects the tlieory of promiscuity, group 
marriage, the existence of a primitive matriarchate and economic 

In a science like anthropology, with its word fetishism and its 
hypertrophied ooncem with lemninQlogy, Dr. Ashley-Montagii s 
important obiter datjtm about the use of words is to be welcomed. 
He disagrees with Frazer's theory of " conceptional totemism”, 
and criticizes the implications of this expression. But he has the good 
sense to add : “ The term has, liotv'cver, assumed a definite place in the 
liteiatuie of ethnology, and it would be the cause of needless confusion 
to attempt to substitute some other for it at this date ” (p* 203). It 
will be a happy day for anthropology when students give up inventing 
new terms and enlarging our jargon, and instead work on the analysis 
of facts and the clarification of concepts. 

The several score new neologisms for the time-honoured expression 
“ bride-price ”, w'hidi liad been suggested in the course of a prolonged 
correspondence in Man, is an example of this word-bunting waste 
of time. After all, we use the word “ savage ” though we know that 
" savages *' are not savage i or the word ** native ”, though we know 
that w'e are natives of sorts; and the word “ aboriginal ” though no 
race ever lived where it does now from the very beginning. Words 
such as ‘'culture” or "civilization”, "race” or "society”, 
*' marriage ” or “ kinship ”, “ religion ” or " magic ” would be found 
one and all after etymological examination to be “ inappropriate 
Lord Raglan some time ago published an article in Man in which he 
accused me of using the term “ &mily ” in a sense in which a great 
many lawyers, ladies at tea-parties, and taxicab drivers would never use 
it. Lord Raglan is quite correct in his argument. But then a physicist 
uses die words " matter ”, " space ”," time ”, and " force ” in a sense 
and with implications entirely absent from either etymological or 
colloquial us^e. 

In CJiapter X on the " Theories relating to Procreative Beliefs ” 
the Author combines his knowledge of biology with his extensive 
reading in Australian etiuiography. In ills real metier he is a physical 
anthropologist, a great advantage to anyone dealing with sociology of 
procreation, 1 was natutally interested In his treatment of the puxale 
why there are so few illegitimate children among such people as the 
Australians or Trobrianders. In that latter report, for instance, 1 found 
that, in spite of a good deal of prenuptial intercourse and die absence 



of contracepdves, pregnancy of unmarried girls hardly ever occurs. 
The Author gives collateral instances t the observations of Rivers in 
the Solomon Islands and those of Dr, Hoghinin an island off die north 
coast of New Guinea. WlieLher Dr. Ashley-Montagu's physiological 
solution (pp. 241 will be final or not, his W'hole treatment of the 
subject constitutes an immense advance in our knowledge. 

At one or two points of his ailment I come in for adverse criticism, 
which, let me admit at once, is very much to the point- 1 am accused 
of inconsistency in my treatment of native beliefs concerning the 
reproduction of pi^ (p. aid, footnote). 1 think that Dr. Ashley- 
Mofitagu is completely correct here, and that his discussion of these 
facts supercedes my analysis. 

Tlie other point on which Dr. Ashley-Montagu criticizes my much 
earlier treatment of Australian kinship is the " failure to recognize.. . 
that there was also the more important non-recognition of sucli a tie 
betw'een mother and child '* {p. 311), The Author is quite correct 
in maintaining that maternity and paternity are both subject to cultural 
re-i ntcipretation. 1 would urge, however, that I did note and comment 
on this underrating of maternity among some Australian tribes. 

At the same time I think tiiat the role of mother and fadter in 
reproduction is fundamentally different. Tliis difference may in certain 
cases be almost obliterated by native belief; the physical significance 
of maternity ruled out etdiet by the excessive prominence given to 
paternity in reproduction, or else by animistic ideas. Nevertheless dicre 
is the fact that the infant is intimately and for a long time connected 
with die maternal organism before birth and afterwards, during lacta¬ 
tion. Tliis must have permanendy influenced all human ideas of kinship. 
I would sdd repeat my earlier view that the foundations of the human 
family are to he found In the biological fact of maternity, and in the 
social fact that each community assigns a man as the protector and 
helpmate of a woman during pregnancy and lactation. But this in no 
way contradicts the general conclusions of the present book (pp. 329, 
33o)-~a lucid summaiy' of the results of social anthropology, with 
Dr. Ashley-Montagu’s own ori^nal contribution thrown in. 

The last chapter is perhaps the most important, brilliant, and valuable 
of the whole book. But it is here, In the last round, that I feel tempted 
to join issue with the author. Perhaps in the process 1 might even be 
knocked out, that is, converted. 

* Df. Aibh1cy-Mona|;u rmfognizes, andood, thiHt MaJinA^'dki not alEDgether lUHOdilsciDUii 
otpo^blc a( lacn rchdng lO trutemity in Ausinlia(p. ji 1}. The 

ill TO my cariitit book* Tht Ftsrrufy Afnan^ tAt AuitrAifiati ^iSonifi^p wtincii t^ia—li, puW lthed 



Tlie Author here links up the functional view of social anthropology 
with [he new behaviouristic or monadologicai schooL In discussing 
traditional experience and belief, the Author takes his main stand on 
the behaviouristic view rather than on that of the functionalist. 
Culture is taken as the main determinant, not only of belief and mystical 
attitudes, but also of perception, experience, and common senses 
“ What reality is, let it be remendier^, depends entirely upon the 
kingdom that is within us, and the kingdom that Is witliln us, the 
content of our minds, is determined by the culture which has con¬ 
structed and furnished it, hence, what reality is conceived to be is 
culturally determined .,(p. 337). And again, in criticism of 
"common sense", which we are told “ does not perhaps have a real 
but an ima^ncd existence," Dr. Ashley-Montagu writes: "Quite 
clearly common sense represents a process of inference frO'in data. It is, 
however, not the nature of the data which determines the nature of the 
inference, but it is the mind, the content, through which the data are 
apprehended or apperceived which determines the nature of the 
inference " (p. 341). " Common sense ,,. is a cultural trait, and tis 
form is determined in and by the culture in which it must flmcdon " 

All this is excellent behaviourism. It is good Lcvy-Bruhl. It is all 
in line with the Margaret Meads and Ruth Benedicts of this modem 
world. It also is in many tvays quite true. There Is no doubt that on 
many points the common sense of a Central AusttaJian differs from that 
of a New Yorker, and what is perfectly obvious to a Samoyed or 
Patagonian might appear absurd ro a Londoner. In some cases the 
Londoner and the New Yorker are right, in others they are mistaken. 
But is tliere not one distinction to be drawn in order not to confuse die 
issue ? I mean, the distinedon between common sense in matters open 
to observation which are also of practical importance to a community 
on the one hand ; and on the other, such subjects as illness and nutri¬ 
tion, death and birth, love and hate, chance and luck. In these latter the 
practical issues involved are primarily determined by social or^niza- 
tion, by emotional relations between human beings and by faaors 
which lie entirely beyond the limits of rational control. 

And then diere is the second question. Admittedly, culture 
determines our mental processes and even our common sense and 
appercepdon of fact. But is not culture itself in mm determined by 
environment, as well as by real categories of human experience and 
human life ? In other words, are there not in every culture universal 



institurions, certain ptincipks of practical knowledgjCj certain canons 
of art and craft which are a norm to every man and woman alive I'' 

The two questions really hang together. A simple survey of 
ethnographic fact shows that^ when it comes to certain aspects of 
behaviour, men do not differ, whatever their culture, nurture, or level 
of civilization. No man, woman, or child-once^bumt, pokes his finger 
into the fire unless he, she, or it wants to be burned. When hungry, 
human beings, unlike ostriches, do not swallow stones. The most 
highly civilized European stranded in the deserts of Central Australia 
w'Ould, after his canned goods had been exhausted, have to take lessons 
from tlie lu&ra how to use the digging stick in order to gather edible 
roots or tubers. He would have to be instructed by the men how to 
catch, prepare, and roast kangaroo or wombat. He would have to 
learn the relevant chapters of the Australian's unwritten natural history 
in order to avoid starvation. Common sense and powers of observation, 
the sense of reality are the same in Australian aborigine and sophis¬ 
ticated Westerner alike. What differs are the circumstances of concrete 
application, die traditional rules derived from this working of 
universally human common sense within the given circumstances and 
at a specific level of culture. 

Those of us who have followed native agriculture in Melanesia 
or Africa, taken part in fishing expeditions in the Pacific or the Indian 
Ocean, or witnessed anywhere hunting or tracking, fire-making or the 
primitive woman-potter at her work, realize quite well than human 
knowledge in such matters is correct and precise. Its canons are of a 
universal validity. Common sense, in the fullest tneanlng of the word, 
almost to the verge of scientific refinement, exists among Australians 
when it comes to practical pursuits of a vital nature. 

Tlie Australian bcximerang obeys the dictates not only of common 
sense, bui of differential calculus. It does so because die Australian 
has empirically discovered the principles governing the boomerang's 
flight and embodied! them in his tradition of production and use of lus 
implement. Were the native to sw'erve the fraction of an inch in the 
tn^ng of die boomerang, this w'ould not fly its curved course. The 
fact tliat it does, bears witness to the truth that, when it comes to 
technology, a cultural trait Is fully determined by natural conditions 
and die function which it is meant to fulfil. The same holds true of all 
technical apparatus and processes, canoes and spear-throwers, methods 
of making fire and of preparing the soil for cultivation. 

Thus it is perhaps going too far to say that in all aspects of human 



experience and tradition, culture can be considered as an autonomous 
ceniie of specific determinism, completely unaffected by tbe real 
categories of objective reality and of adequate human behaviour. 
This emphatically is not the case with regard to those aspects of man's 
activities where, in a technological process he has to achieve definite 
practical results by the work of his own hands, leg^, and body, and in 
which his brain acts as tlie main co-ordinating agency. 

Let us turn to the other side of human behaviour. Let us consider 
bow uncertainty, risk, uncontrolled elements, enter forcibly into a 
situation in which man has to act, not on his knowledge, but in spite 
of his ignorance, A fleet of perfectly built canoes starts on a fishing 
expedition, or on a distant trading voyage. All has been well con¬ 
structed, prepared and foreseen— except, that is, the wind, the weather 
and die vicissitudes of chance. And here remarkably enouj^ it is again 
experience which teaches man that here he has no knowledge to use ; 
tliat he cannot foresee a tornado or a tidal wave ; that he can be met 
wdth a thunderstorm or be dashed against an unknown reef. Experience 
teaches him that at this stage of his enterprise, lie can only hope and 
fight against fear; that he has to act on his confidence of success and 
not on his despair and apprehensions of failure. 

This is where knowledge and experience mingle with emodonal 
atdtudes. The play of hope against fear, of confidence against 
apprehension, produces a different type of mental process from that 
whidi is at the foundations of primitive knowledge. And we enter 
here die domain of magic and religion, of moral convictions and ritual 
activities. Culture here asserts definitely her autonomous power and 
determinism. We know of some cultures which rely entirely on magic, 
and others where ancestor-worship provides the dominant note. We 
know of totemic communities and others controlled by belief in 
shiima ukm, by die mythology and ritual of Culture Heroes, or again 
by the rale of Divine Kings. Yet even here there are certain general 
principles, certain fundamental realities, which make possible a 
comparative science of religion and of magic, of ritual and of 

It may be best to apply these general considerations to the 
Australian ideas about conception and birth. We have to register here 
two facts 1 first, exact knowledge about the physiology of birth is to 
these natives entirely irrelevant; second, neither experience not 
common sense, that is, logic, can really be applied to the crucial issue. 
As regards dus last point, the Author himself shows conclusively that 



the Atistralians have not opportunities for relevant observation; tliat 
they cannot apply the e:)^ru7tennun cruets. 

The conditions under which physiological patemitjr can be easily 
discovered are those in which marriage takes place rather late in life; 
girls are kept under strict control after puberty; and chastity is 
regarded as an essential virtue. Under such conditions a breach of the 
rule, that is, sexual interooiirse of a niihiJe and unmarried girl, would 
normally give rise to conception. The discovery of the causal con¬ 
nection would be a matter of common sense expeiicnoe and 

What, on the other hand, w'ould be the conditions under which the 
discowry of physical paternity would be well-nigh impossible, while 
the afcmation of social paternity would be the natural outcome of 
essence and logic f Imagine a community in which girls are not 
□niy allowed, but ritually forced to have intercouise before puberty 
that IS, at a physiological stage where tliey cannot conceive; and 
at the same rime where at puberty iltey are made to marry that is, 
obtain a sociological father to any child which mi^t appear.’ In such 
a community we could almost speak about an artificially set experiment 
which would force the observers to draw an erroneous inference. 
Dr. Asbley-Montagu expresses it cogently. Empirical obvious 
rommon ^nse f^ts, given in the experience which every one can 
directly observe for himself”, confirm, “ the belief is that only with 
marriage can children be bom (p. 344). ... To the Arunta. . Joter- 
cou^ .. has notliing whatsoever to do with pregnancy” (HLf) 
ITie author tJien proceeds to point our that quickening, whii’ 
place some time after concepiion, and which is regarded as tAe 
direct and immediate experience" of the entry of a spirit child, is 
Jdmost mevit^ly perceived near one of the sacred spots, rcKirded as 
of.f.n. cMdr™. For .1,so d.icldy%.tK»d 
ttol wlierover .pKckonmg n porccivod a spo. ooir by can li 
as Its source. b 

Let us note that Dr. Asbley-Montagu here uses such words as 
expenence , common sense ", " observation and " knowledee ” 
not m the sense m which he has defined them previously, rhatt in a 
^ cultumlly determined and essentially relativistic. In the contrary 
the crucible of expenen^" mentioned on page 344, and all 2e 

His sHiole aignment ,o ,.:ry and of dia book is condneted on 


lines, in my opinion, unimpeachably comecr, on the assumption, tliat 
is, that tlie powers of observation and reasoning of the aborigines are 
identical with our own. Their mental equipmttit is entirely independent 
ofanyculrural dictates. 

Dr, Ashley-Montagu's firm belief in absolute common sense, a 
universally human power of observation and logic, is shown also in 
his discussion of the fact that in aboriginal Australia pregnancy is 
first diagnosed by quickening. “ When something enters something 
else it usually makes the fact quite plainly knonra immediately, thus, 
a fiy in one's nose, eye, tnir, mouth, or any other place, die moment ii 
eiiicrs any of these stnicmres It makes its presence known immediately 
by producing a definite sensation ...” (p. 3,45), No one would 
controvert this brief and adequate summary of a whole body of 
experience to W’luch every man, primitive and civilized, scientific and 
mystical, has often been subjected. But obviously the author here 
applies conclusions drawn from human experience In general 10 tliat of 
the Australians. He assumes, in fact, that under certain conditions the 
American girl, the Chinese matron, and the Australian Itibm react in 
exactly die same manner, and that iWs is also the case with any human 
being with a fly in his nose. 

We may ask where does the bee in the bonnet, that is the specific 
cultural dictate, come in, ft certainly does so, in that culture suggests to 
die Australian woman that a ready-made spirit child has entered her 
womb, and does not surest to her that a male spermatozoon has 
entered her ovum and fertilized it. In its fullest sdendfic version of 
course, this suggestion was made ladicr late in the development of 
human knowledge. In a simple form, as the knowledge diat intercourse 
produces pregnancy, the realization is very old. Indeed, as Dr. Ashley- 
Montagu has shown in this book, in a very crude, simple, and irrelevant 
form, it exists even in Australia. 

And here comes the second point; to the Australians an exact 
knowledge of physical paternity is not relevant. Concern about 
fatherho^ as a physical reaJtiy depends, as far as I can see, on the 
standardized sentiments of sexual jealousy and, In close relation with 
this, on the emotionally determined value of direct lineage in the male 
line. Tlie so-called primitive ignorance of paternity is nothing else 
but a very imperfect biowledge that inteicourse is a necessary though 
not sufficient condition of the woman being “ opsted up ” as my 
Trobriand friends put it. Tills is always combined with some form 
of animistic superstructure, wliich in fact we find even in die Christian 



doctrine of the new soul being created concurrently with the body. 
The problem therefore is really one of emphasis and value. 

In communities where intercourse between anyone except husband 
and wife is regarded as morally sinful ; where infidelity affects the 
honour of the husband and degrades the woman to the lowest level, 
the value of chastity and the knowledge of patemit)' are obviously but 
two aspects of the same moral dictate. In Semitic cultures, for instance, 
we have a standardized and institutionalized system of watching the 
girl before she is married ; of documenring her virginity at marriage; 
of guarding her with extreme care after she is married - and of punish¬ 
ing her for any breach of cbasdty, married or unmarried. In such a 
culture the emphasis, to be sure, will not produce an exact embryo- 
logical knowledge, but certainly an acute interest in the relation 
between intercourse and pregnancy. In Seraitk or Hamitic cultures 
pptrihny and patriarchy are tile dominant canons of kinship. It is easy 
to sec tliat a positive doctrine about the bodily identity, as tvell as 
social continuity between fother and child, must develop. It would be 
interesting if the sociologist would mm to such societies and make as 
minute a study of their overemphasis of paternity as Dr. Ashley- 
Montagu and others have made of its disregard In Australia. I venture 
to foretell that in sudi communities knowledge in the scientific sense 
is as much affected by cuitural elenumts and re-interpretations as is the 
case in 

I hope it is clear by now that I do not minimize the importance of 
cultural determinism. I only insist upon the distinction between those 
types of hu^ behaviour where correct knowledge is indispensable 
for the business of life and those where knowledge must inevitably 
be affected by emotion, desire, and value. Sexual jealousy belongs to the 
latter class of human interests. It is a highly complex and often self¬ 
contradictory factor, and it lias essentially social and emotional foutuk- 
lions. Men and women differ profoundly even within die same culture. 
One culture as against another can here rule attitudes which in some 
cases are almost diametrically opposite. 

We could exemplify this variety of cultural rulings from the norms 
obtaining with regard to suicide. This is a virtue, even an absolute 
duty, to the Japanese nobleman, a sin to a Christian, and a felony under 
English law. When it comes to the causes and treatment of illness, we 
have in some cul^ the belief in wiichoaft and counter-ma^c; 
In others a conviction of natural aetiology and trust in scientific 
treatment. But here again no culture however rationalistic will ever 



completely banish the craving for miracles and snpemadrral means of 
Tieaonent of disease. In our rational moods we in our own culture 
know that illness is strictly subject to natural determimsm. But when 
medicine fails, we still resort to magic. I am &irty convinced that to¬ 
day, what widi Christian Science, fiith-hcaling, the various “ psycho¬ 
logical” treatments, not to mention Lourdes, bed-side manner, and the 
laying on of hands by Clerics or Harley Street specialists, we civilized 
Westerners have as much bchef in die non-natural causes and methods 
of curing illness as any cannibal mbe in Africa, Australia, or Melanesia. 

Tlius the subject of conception and birtli, so deeply entangled in 
sexual passion, jealousy, and the emotions associated with paternity 
and maternity, is one where ohsorvation and logic have not a fair 
chance of play. We are dealing here with a human attitude where 
observation will always be warped by emotions, and logic affected 
by passion. In contrast to this, we can find, even among the Australians, 
mental attitudes where the native is as rigidly scientific and fully 
governed by experience and tlie memories thereof as anyone of us 
so^lled men of science. 

In all this, however, I am but restating from a slightly divergent 
point of view the substance of Dr. Ashley-Afontagu’s excellent 
analysis. The only suggestion that I would like to make to the Author 
is, that perhaps it is not necessary to throw overboard common sense, 
experience, and Icgic in order to prove his case. Indeed, in his actual 
handling of the subject, he does still apply the scieuthic categories of 
the human mind to the mental activities of the AustraUan and to his 
behaviour. All that he needs to add is that, with an entirely different 
social organization, common sense in matters of emotional and 
social concern will necessarily reach somewhat different conclusions 
from those reached in our culture. 

I have already mentioned that in one way the present book may lead 
to a compromise, or perhaps even more than that, to a cross-fertiliza¬ 
tion ofFunctionalismjOn the one hand,and on the otl]er,the School who 
insist on supplementing the rigidly scientihe analysis of culture by a 
more intuitive approach. Some of the arguments, in which I have done 
nothing more than to restate Dr. Ashley-Montagu's analyses, may be 
taken as a specimen of this cross-fertilization. I think Functionaiism 
will be able to vindicate its claims that there is a common measure to 
all cultures; that there are laws of cultural process, and valid generaliza¬ 
tions as to the mutual dependence of the various aspects of culture; 

After all. Professor Franz Boas would be the last to disagree with me 



in the contention thst sny ncis] theory which would m alrp the hu man 
mind different as from one type of humanity to another, is not sciendfre. 
Neither Dr. Ashley-Montagu nor Dr. Ruth Benedict would whole¬ 
heartedly subscribe to some of the arguments of Professor Levy-Brulj] 
and others who ascribe to the Primitive a somewhat different logic from 
our o^. But if the primitive niind does not differ from ours, then 
surely in all practical matters, where man constructs and handles tools, 
or initiates and sup^tses natural processes, culture will submit to the 
functional la^^'S which define adequate means by the ends to which they 
arc used. We have therefore one large aspect of culture, the one dealing 
with progressive mastery over his environment, in which 

determinism controls cultural processes in a way universally human 
and amenable to scientific laws. And let me be clear. I speak here not 
Only of technology and the b^iiinin^ of science, but also of w'hat might 
be called die economic aspect of civilization, in the widest sense of the 

Functionalism will perhaps claim yet anodier sphere for its appli¬ 
cability. It is true that various cultures solve Ae same problems 
tlirough different institutions. Thus reproduction is carried on in 
various forms of family, based on different types of marriage, and 
associated with dissimilar types of descent and kinship, Nuridon is 
satisfied through a great range of foods, differently produced, 
differently prepared, and diffei^ntly eaten. Safety from enemies, from 
wild animals, and from the inclemencies of the weatlier is satisfied 
by a wide range of dissimilar organizations, metliods of pro tection, and 
architectonic stmetures. But the functions which each one of such 
cultural mechanisms fulfils are comparable. The identity of function 
in reproductive institutions, for instance, imposes certain conditions 
which allow us to speak about the human family and human marriage; 
which make it p^ible to sum up all the facts of kinship and des^nt 
in a brief theoretical account; which in short make possible a general 
science of social anthropoiogy* 

Bui die Functionalist will, I think, be foiced to the recognition of the 
fiict tliat the concrete contents of each culture have to be defined and 
described with a fuller measure of artistic and intuitive talent than has 
oft^ been employed in the past. Anthropology must become more 
vivid and more real; more concerned with liv-ing men and women, 
rather than with abstraaion and mere generalization. 

1 think also that in the study of Primitive folk-lore and native 
decorative art, of dancing and of music, we shall find elements which 



may prove almost completely refractory to sdentilic analysis and yet 
will have to he re:orded. Here the anthropologist may have to cea^ to 
be a mere analytic man of science. He may have to become almost an 

From this point of view the dictum of Professor Franz Boas that 
the work of the anthropologist " requires a deep penco^on into the 
genius of the culture ” receives a new meaning and a new justification. 
Anthropology, all, has to deal with human beings. It is almost 
atruism to say that man cannot be reduced to a mathematical formula-— 
and woman is notoriously even more refractory. The excellent 
wort of Dr, Ashley-Montagu on a theme equally related to man as 
to woman, to primitive science and to the emotions of a savage 
race, has required a treatment in which intuition and scholarship, 
atdsric craftmanship and scientific precision had to be well blended and 
balanced. The Author has acquitted himself of a difficult task in a 
masterly manner and produced a book of which both the Functional 
and the Intuitive School can be equally proud. 




Chafteh I 


" I have never myself imaginHl iftat any amount of evidence of law or us^e 
wHuen or observed, would by iiself solve the problems which cluster round 
[he beginnings of liuman sodeiy-”—S ir Heshv Maine, Early Law and 
[SSj, pH 

In the first volume of his book. The Legend of Perseus^ which 
appeared in 1894, in which the " "world-wide-siory-incideiit of Super¬ 
natural Birth ” was examined, Ifertlaitd made the suggestion that 
the myths, stories, superstitions, and incidents relating to super¬ 
natural birth originated during that period in the development of 
human society when the physical relationship between father and 
child was imperfectly understood, or radier, not understood at all. 
The suggestion tlius made represented an inference based upon a 
large number of accounts of almost universal proveniettce relating to 
tlie belief in supernatural birtli. Finding this belief so widely dis¬ 
tributed, Hartland drew the further inference that it must also at 
one time have been common to all mankind-* Both these inferences 
were stated in the form of suggestions or hypotheses, which, with 
the progress of knowledge, it was supposed might some day receive 
either proof or disproof. Such reasoning was, of course, according 
to the best and most fruiifid principles of the evolutionary school 
of thoughL The methods of thou^t and invesugadon which had 
yielded such rich results widi respect to the problem of die ori^n of 
species, could not but fail, it was considered, to be equally fruitful 
and revealing wlien applied to such problems as related to the origin 
and development of social instituuons. Animal and social structures 
were regarded as amenable to die same methods of analysis, such 
difietcnces as diey exhibited were thought to be due solely to the 
difiercnces inherent b die materials from which they were constructed, 
and in die different organization of that material. In short, die world 
presented series of recurring phenomena which, allowing for the 
differences in their structura] bases, differed from one anodier only 

‘ E. S. Hsnlaiul. Th* Ligendt^f Prntsa, 3 veil., Londtui. 

* Itidl. 



in respect of the degree of complexity of their organization. The 
method which had so efficiently solved the problem of organization 
and development in one field could, it was considered, surely be 
relied upon to solve the same problem in all other fields. Tltose who 
thought thus committed the error of mistaking die result or effect of 
a method for the method itself, for the piirtcipie of evolution is not a 
method, but a generalization of great heuristic value. Darwin, to 
whom we owe it, arrived at it by means of a vast number of objective 
circumstantially detailed hittoriciil observations, which when fitted 
together gave him his generalization of evolution. The method he 
used was the method wluch all those whose work is based upon the 
observation of facts must use, the objective historical method, which, 
in brief, consists first of the collection and ordered arrangement of 
detailed observations of faca, the statement of these, and only 
secondarily, in the analysis of their meaning. After 1859 (when the 
Origin of Speda was published), evolution became a catchword, a 
phrase, and finally a method, lAt evolutiontuy rnerAW, so that et^en 
to-day it is still not unusual to find prominent thinkers speaking anrl 
writing of " the evolutionary method ”. But tliere never was such 
a thing. No single method applied to the solution of problems so 
diverse has been as sucecssfij] as the method used by Darwin in 
arriving at his generalization of evolution. In the past this has been 
particularly true of the problems of the experimental sciences, sciences 
which have become experimental chiefly because they were informed 
by the heuristic principles of the evolutionary theory. Nineteenth 
century sociologists grasping the tremendous signfficance of the 
result of Darwin's method tlie principle of evolution, but not the 
method by which it was arrived at, at once set about showing that 
human societies had evolved in the same or in a similar manner asanimal 
species. Their method in a sense was indeed evolutionary, for it 
consisted in fordng all sodal facts into a framework which would 
conform with theur conceptions of evolution. This practice, of 
OTurse, may now be recognized as a very neat example of the mano t^r 
in which the cart should not be pul in relation to the horse. In the 
social sciences, including ethnology, die use of the so-called “ evolu¬ 
tionary method *' has had the effect of stimulating speculation and 
argumentation about ideas and tlieories upon the basis rather of 
generalization than upon the solid groundwork of fact. Since, in 
the sodal sciences the experimental control of the material Is for 
tlie most part impossible, it was easy for genetalization to die 



place of expenraent and, in most cases, of fact itself. By the end of 
the nineteenth cenmiy this type of ratiocination had become so 
endued to the hearts of thinkers like Herbert Spencer that Huxley 
could justly remark of them that their idea of a tragedy was a generaliza¬ 
tion killed by a fact ! The great error of such thinkers, it is now 
obviousj was the assumption that the developmeni of social structures 
proceeded upon the sarne mechanistic lines as animal evolutionj 
development, and growth proceeded ; that every society represented 
some stage in the process of this development, the exact progression 
of which could be determined upon analysis, and that human nature 
being everywhere the same, similar stimuli w^ere naturally productive 
of similar responses. Upon the basis of sudi ideas it was possible 
to give a complete picture of the origin, evolution^ and development 
of human society^ for all tliat was necessary w'as the eclectic selection 
of the pertinent facts from the literature descriptive of particulai 
social groups^ and the synthesb o-f tliese facts drawn from every 
quarter of the globe into one unified whole as if one were dealing 
with stone artifacts. The works of Herbert Spencer and in our own 
day of Sir James Frazer are excellent examples of this type of linear 
methodology* Supported by an encyclopaedic range of facts, they 
present a composite picture of the evolution of society, as it were^ 
in a continuous straight line. In reality human Bocieuesare cliaracterized 
by die discontinuity of their development, by a diversity of develop¬ 
ment which makes their equation to any one common pattern quite 
impossible.^ Even the forms of expression of wliat we call human 
nature are seen to differ according to the sodedes m wliich they 
functiom^ To lump such dbeontmuiti^^ together and to attempt 
to educe an evolutionary line of development from them is to obscure 
the existence of the fact that at whatever comparable levels of cultural 
development we may take them societies differ from one another 
enormously, and present a virtually infinite variety of patterns. 

There are no universal laws governing the development and 
progress of hunian societies, and tliere are no inherendy determined 
stages of development through wliich they must necessarily pass. 
The forms of societies are for the most part the product of accidencal 
factors, and in this sense every society is a law unto itself, and as 
such it must be studied* Before everything else then, each society 
must be studied as a whole in itself, and not from die outset merely 

^ Fqf fifCfttff it esifKM^POn of llus v'wv^ He ftuth Benefii«*i Psltinu of Calmr^t Boston 
v \4 Lotidoo, J ^>4. * See dnJ Timptriwum, VorlPp i 



as a part of an assumed greater whole^ namely world culture^ In 
trutli, there h no world euUure, but only culture worldseach of 
which calls for pardcularist investigation^ without benefit of so-called 
heuristic general laws into the framework of wliicli each culture 
may be made to fit. When we have completed our pardcularist studJeSj 
only then may it be possible to bring them together as so many clues 
tOT^'ards the solution of the problem of the growth and development 
of cul Hires. 

h is quite impc^ible to say of any society tliat because it now 
displays certain tr^ts in some particular connection that it must 
therefore, at some earlier time, have displayed some other irait, one 
perhaps more primitive than those now existing. Thus, to return 
to the reason for this preamble, Hanland^s suggestion that the mde 
distribution of rhe beliefs relating to supernatural birth indicates 
the existence anteriorly of a nescience of die physical relationship 
between father and child, and that this nescience must once have 
been common to all mankind, cannot be proven by an appeal to any 
group of cultural facts. Nor k there anytiung in such cultural facts 
which would justify the assumption that such a nescience necessarily 
represents a primitive stage in the development of ideas concerning 
the nature of conception. Indeed, as we shall see in a later cliapter, 
the very opposite has with some force been argued. 

When, how'ever, Spencer and Gillen published tiieir great work 
on The Nativi Tri^ of Central AtisiralLy^ in 1899, and for the first 
time made it known that the tribes investigated by them possessed 
no knowledge of the relationship between coitus and pregnancy, 
Hanland felt that hb suggestion of a few years previously liad received 
a perfect demonstration of its validity. 

Not long after the ptibHcation of Spencer and Gillen's work there 
appeared In January, 1903, W. E. Roih*s famous Bulk tin No. 5,“ 
in which a similar nescience of the relationship bemeen coitus and 
pregnancy was d^ribed for certain of the tribes of North Quecnslmid. 

In the following year Spencer and Gillen published their work on 
The Northern Tri&es of Central Austraiia^^ in which the same nescience 
was demonstnited for the more northern of the Central Australian 

The same year, 1904, witnessed the appearance of A, W. Howitt^s 

^ Ttuf iif Cimral ^uj-i/dJEd^ Lonclaa, i i aa-f^ 

* " Medicine:,'* QufmMfanJ Buttcuit Nd^ 

Home Sccrmry'i Sdtbuttp 

* Tr^u ef j 4 uttr\i/fa^ LondcHip 1^04, j 



long-awaited study of Tie Native TriBes of SouiA-£ast jiustralia,^ 
a work of the first importance, but recounditg disappointingly little 
concerning die native beliefs relating to conception. There were, 
however, a few statements which stirred the curiosity, and which 
doubtless suggested rather more tlian their author thought hr 
for them to do. Like so many of the early ethnological observers, 
Howitt, in all matters that touched upon the sexual life of the natives, 
preserved a scrupulous silence. 

In the early part of 1905, Mrs. K. Langloh Parker’s delightful book 
on The Euahlt^i Triie~ of north-western New South Wales made 
its appearance with an introduction by Andrew Lang. In this introduc¬ 
tion Lang briefly discussed Mrs. Parker’s findings concerning the 
conoeptional beliefs of the Euahlayi in relation to the concepdonal 
belief of the Arunta. 

In September of the same year appeared Sir f, G. Frazer’s now famous 
article on conceptional totemism among the Australian aborigines.^ 
Later in the same year Andrew Lang's book The S^fet of the Totem * 
made its appearance. In this book a chapter was devoted to a critical 
discussion of the conceptional beliefs of the Arunta in connection 
with Fra7;er’s then newly postulated theory of conceptional totemism 
which had appeared only a few weeks before the publication of 
Lang’s book. This and related matters were further discussed by 
Lang in an article which appeared still later in the same year.® 

Early in 1906, Hartland reviewed Lang’s book,* in wliidt though 
he found mudi to admire In Lang’s handling of his theme, he also 
discovered much with which he could not agree. To the criticisms 
made in tliis review, Lang replied in the next issue of the journal in 
which they were published.’ 

In die same year Mrs. Daisy M. Bates published an interesting 
account of some Western Australian tribes, and briefly described some 
of their beliefs relating to conception.* 

In this year was also published A. van Gennep’s Mytkes et LigenJes 

^ NaUtrs 7W^ LonSun, [^04. 

^ TAi Trii*, Loodon, i^|+ 

* " THe B^ruun^ of ReJigiofl mi Toremism amofig ihe Auicfalian Aban'ifEnB," pt^ 

Th* Fortmghfy Iraiv^ 190^+ 4^1-46!$. 

* Tke 5 «rtfJ 0/ ik* Lonacfip 1901% 

The Primilive and the Ad^’iinnd in Tottminn,'^ /wmo/ 0/ tAr Fayal AAikropoio^iMl 
Kwv, ijof, 

■ " Tlic Sccrei of ihi ji Moa^ vi» a?-** 

^ '* QuesdcHus Tdrcfnicz/' Man^ vi, 

^ '* The MafTui^ ood muf CufloEn^ of die W»t Ajilatn^afi Alwnjf^uisii,'^ 
CwgropklcjU JowrTKiii, Kiiil-iaEiv^ 



d’Attstralie,^ and also an article by the same author ® in both of which 
works the ideas of the Australians relating to conception were dUcussed. 
Van Gennep^s book was made the subject of a very critical review 
shortly after its appearance at the hand of Andrew Lang.^ To this 
review van Gennep made a spirited reply,'* which served to elicit as 
spirited a rejoinder from Lang.® 

In 1907 appeared the firsc part of a work on the Aninta and Lutitja 
of Central Australia, by Carl Stiehlow, a Lutheran missionary stationed 
at the Hermannsbutg Mission.* In this work certain of Spencer and 
Gillen's statements concerning the nature of the Arunta nescience of 
the procreative processes were seriously questioned, for Strehlow 
could not obtain any coniirmary evidence from his informants in 
support of thse statements. Moritz von Leonhardi, the editor of 
the greater part of Strehlow’s work, had already discussed some of 
these matters in the light of Srrehlow's communications to him in 
an article earlier tn the same year.^ 

Also in this year appeared die origina] communications of Basedow,* 
and H. Klaatsch,* descriptive of the beliefs held by the native tribes 
of the Noriliem Territory of Australia, and also a general discussion 
of great originality by Andrew Lang of the Australian conceptiona] 

In 1908, the missionary, Jos. Bischo^ very briefly reported upon 
the conoeptional belief of die Niol-Niol of north-west Australia,” 
and in die same year W. Schmidt published a discussion of the 
Aranda notions of conception.*^ 

Extending between the years 1904 to 1908, a series of interesting 

* **Lts Wte Oe* AuEtiali^ hit U ^ FfaiKt^ l?dp p 3^4-ua. 

* " Myxhei et d^Auwrdicp" a review, vip 143-^. 

^ QuestktfA ^ fltiply to Mr. I4B-9, 

* ''QuestEonn ToCrmicitp a Rc^Iy to M van GauKp," Mw, vi^ iSo-iRt. 

* ** Dk Aranda und Loritja Stan™; in S^Tnil^.AiMralien*" Sa§m 

ArntJvAi-Siii/Ttmdj in ZtnifsMl-Aattftdun, GcSwrundt voo Cart StrthloW Sorba cee %'on ^foTTtx von 
L«?nlwdi, Frmkfmr, of Voraort hy vw LeonKajdi^ and fo-ij; It, »■ 

^ Ueba: ^glfr rtditfkHBc tind ToEemiJtiadw VorstcUungfii dcr Aiandii und LnriT^ in 
Zcotral^AuitraJicnp" xiip 1 907, 

■ ^thropolot^l Notes on ibe Western Tiibcri af ih* Nonhm Tctrilury of 

Ausiralia.^** Jtiiuli-. tuiJ Pfac*^ ami / 2 kty 4 Siit^ S-i Auitmii^y iinfi j Iijo7p 1 

■ **ScM 5 W Noica OP SetenEifk Travel vnangll the Bladt Popcil^'pn of Tropical Australia 

In 1?^^ /kjPwtp nih mwng AuitiaLicsUc Aboc. Adv+ Sd^, *907, jSo; “ Schluss- 

bcridit udx-r Mceik Rcisc nach AwHralifin in den Jahren 1904-191^.^ 39, 

I4 *¥ Ajiilrnlian ProMEnH^*" iq. &Krjrj jrrtfmuJ » FUu/rtiA Mufmiff Tytiiff ^ 

A&n^f i?f Ai'j ?SiA J^j", Orferdi. 1907, aof-aiSu 

^ "CHc Nlol-Nid, di3 EEn^cbor^fiefuiamm In HQrdwi;st-Aii&« 4 Jkn,^ iil, 

190a, 33-40. 

*• Die Std^un^ der Aiandi unwr defl AustrolischeQ SejUnmen,” Z^./ tfloS* 



papers describing the concepdona] beliefs of various Australian 
tribes was published by R. H- Matliews in various Journals.^ 

In the It^ii of these important contributions relating to the con- 
ceptional beliefs of the Australian aborigines^ as well as much other 
material of a similar nature but of a less striking kind, descriptive of 
the similar beliefs held by other peoples, Hartland, in 1909, was able to 
publish the first volume of his study of Priimtive Patertu^^ in wbidi 
he ventured to lay before the reader the case for the conjecture which 
he had made some sixteen years earlier in Thi Legeftd of Ptrseus.^ 
** The beliefs,” wrote Hartland, “ customs, and instirutions of 
tribes in a low degree of civilization are our only due to those of a 
more archaic condition no longer extant. They are evolved from 
them, and are in the last resort the outgrowth of ideas which underlay 
them. When, tliercfore, we find a belief, a custom, or an institution— 
still more when we find a conneaed series of beliefs, customs, and 
institutions—overspreading the lower culture we may reasonably 
infer its root in the ideas common to mankind and native to the 
primitive ancestral soil. The inference is greatly strengthened if 
vesti^al forms are also found embedded in tlie culture of the higher 
races. It is raised to a certainty if unambiguous expression of the 
ideas themselves can be discovered to-day among the lowrer races. 
The advance of even the most backward from primeval savagery 
has been so great that a large harvest of these ideas is not to be expected. 
But the researches of the last few years have yielded enough, it is 
hoped, to afford a sarisfaetcry solurioti of, among others, the problem 
under consideration in these volumes.”^ 

During the quarter of a century which has passed since Hartland’s 
Primitive Paterni^ was published a great ded of evidence bearing 
upon the subject of the procreative ideas of primitive peoples has 
accumulated, and numerous general discussions of this evidence in 
relation to such problems as the origin of totemisrn, mother-right, 
father-right, kinship, and the fiunily, have appeared. Professor 
Malinow'ski's full and illununating accounts of the Trobriand Islander's 

EdwujlcBKal Ncilrt oa the Alwngiruil Tribes Df QoecnslaiKlj” Jrj N,S,^ 

jc3t, 1^4-f. 4^, 75 a ■’ Notes on some NaJiVc Tribe* of AiunaliiT*" Prx. Sx. 

Nrv SattiJi Tht TotOlUStk Syticm Irt Amrt. 

1906, J44; " Notes iWV tlw Ara»cU Tribe*'* /oitr. W Proc. i?kiy. Sx. VVw JWA JTo/w 
jdi, 19137, t47; "" Notes on the Aborigine^ of ihe Northern Territofy, WoKtern AuxtiaJu^ and 
QumEland^'' Pfx. Sx. Aufirnfasw, xxii^ 190, l6; " Marriage and 

Descent In the Annda Tribe,'^ ^rStAa^., N*S.^ 98% 

■ Ljandofit i, l9*9f Pitdacc, v, 

■ DsiiLf v-Vi. VoSume ii wm pubhuled in 191&. 'rhrte vvK teftifirniod hy HjiT]u>d 

in. his Pfiffum '4 SixitJyf. Londoo, [91^1* lSr-A4. 



ignorance of the rekdonship between coittis and pregnancy have 
served to diaw a certain amount of aiicndon to the subject, which 
has resulted in many discussions of Interest and value. Also Professor 
Radcliffe-Brown's important studies and those of his students on the 
soda] organtzadoQ of Australian tribra have thrown a flood of light 
upon an extraordinarily Urge number of matters of interest in our 
present connection which had previously been cither erroneously 
understood or not understood at alL In the present study advantage 
will be taken of all this new material in the attempt to discover what 
the nature of the Australian procreative beliefs is, and how those beliefs 
function in their particular context* There is a mistaken notion widely 
prevalent In ethnological circles to the effect tliat the Australian's 
nescience of the causal relationship between coitus and pregnancy 
takes the form merely of an ignorance^ or nescience, of the physied 
rfkiionship between fotlier and child. In many regions this is 
indeed the case, but in quite a large number of other regions the 
truth is tliat a very real endeavour is made to recognise the physical 
father, whereas the status of the physical modier is reduced to tliat 
of a wet-nurse, a sort of convenient medium for the transmission 
of the incarnated or reincarnated individual into the tribe, but a person 
who actually, that is in socially construed physical actualJtyj plays 
no more part in the production and fortnation of that individual than 
a wet-nurse would* But what is of far greater importance is die widely 
distributed belief in other parts of Australia that mitAer ma/e m^rfimale 
parent CDnlriifatc wkatsoa^ir of a pf^skal or spirttual natarc 

£o iAe icing of the ckiM* TJius, the whole process of maternity is 
esteemed to be a rather secondary matter upon both these views* 
Actually the existence of physiological maternity as well as of physio¬ 
logical paternity is, as such, ignored. As we shall see in a later chapter, 
the allegedly obvious relationsbip between mother and child is not 
as obvious to the Australian aborigines as it is to ourselves, not 
because there is any biological difference between the tw'o groups, 
but because there is a very profound sodal difference the psychological 
effects of which renders such a relationship very far from being obvious 
to the natives. 

It must at once be apparent that the view of the maternal processes 
which such notions lead to must have very wide implications indeed, 
yet because the actual evidence has been neglected in fevour of catch¬ 
words and time-honoured cliches like the phrase igmrancc of piysio-- 
bgkal paMrrti^j discussions and controversies respecting rhe priority 



of mother-right and father-right have been able to enjoy a licence 
as broad and as long as the whole range of the unbridled human 
imagination would allow, without once approaching, be it said, to 
within a really fact-proof theory, one, that is, which could withstand 
the test of the facts as they are available to us. But these ate matters 
which will be discussed in a later chapter. Here it is important to 
point out tliat the usage of such a phrase as " the ignorance of physio¬ 
logical paternityas a universal to denote what are supposed to be 
the conditions as they are found in Australia is a procedure which in 
view of the facts is both invalid and incorrect, as well as misleading, 
fO'f it obscures such pertinently fundamental facts as the existence of 
the concept of non-biologica! maternity as well as non-biological 
paternity. What precisely the meaning of this lost statement is cannot 
be fuliy comprehended until the whole of the evidence has been 
considered, although it should be evident from w'hat has already 
been said that if there exists a nescience of the biological relationship 
between mother and child, or an underestimation: of that relationship 
of such a character as to render it as a notion virtually non-existent, 
the whole concept of the biological family as it is usually understood 
must fall to the ground, for it should be apparent that the actual 
biological family is always at best no more than It is socially allowed 
to be. The so-called biological fami ly among the Australian aborigines 
is, as we shall Iiave occasion to see, simply a socially determined group, 
and never more than tliat. If all this is true, it will readily be seen 
that the foundations of almost every theory of mother-right that has 
ever been propounded must quickly collapse, for all such theories 
are based primarily upon the purely hypothetical notion that the 
primordial family consisted essentially only of mother and child, for 
die reason that the rebtionship between mother and child was 
inescapably obvious in the physical system of correlates terminating 
with parturition whereas between father and child there, exists no 
such immediately obser^'able physical system of correlates.^ As Maine 
put it, maternity is matter of observation, paternity matter of inference,* 
The truth is, however, that what is matter of observation and what 
matter of mfenence depends not upon the matter itself, but upon the 
character of the perception by means of which it is apprehended. 
What in one framework of reference is matter of obseiv'ation becomes 
in another framework matter of mediate inference, and vice versa, 

* Fat a mni apcfinan of diis view. He E, TAi j volt* LoD^ari, 19^7, 

* on mJ LondoD, iSfif , 30^. 

10 introduction 

Observation and inference are not iiittate faculties of the mind, but 
highly cultivated formal ptoccases which are in all societies developed 
along the lines laid down by, and in conformity with, the cultural 
pattern, and as the patterns differ so will tlie nature, the character, of 
these processes. ^'Tien, for example, an Australian aboriginal observes 
his totem animal and asserts that ** He same as me what he means 
is tiiat there exists a very close physical relationship between himself 
and that animal. It is a kan^oo and so, too, is he a kangaroo. When 
questioned he will maintain that physically he resembles the kangaroo, 
and that he can recognize the totem alRliadon of any member of 
his tribe at once since each individual in some way resembles the 
znimai or plant with which he is totemicaUy ideniilkd. This fao 
of observation (or is it inference ?) is by no means surprising since it 
is upon every liand supported by a ctihvural framework which renders 
it necessary. Individuals are somediing more than mere units in an 
a^regate of persons, each one possesses a certain distinct individuality 
w'hich he owes chiefly to the totemic class to which he belongs, and 
which serves to distinguish him from other members of the tribe, 
and, atthesame time, to identify him with a certain group of individuals 
of the same totemic group. The individuality thus bestowed upon 
each member of the tribe becomes matter of observation and nor of 
inference, for to the Australian it is something which is immediately 
given in experience, something that is more often than not known 
to every member of the tribe long before the individual is bom, for 
from the moment the woman feels herself with child die totemic place 
from which the child emanated and entered her is generally quickly 
settled, so that even before the child is bom it is recognized to belong 
to a particular totemic group and none other by every member of the 
tribe. In all this there is notliing very remark^le, these fects merely 
illustrate the point that what matter of observation or inference shall 
be is simply culturally determined. It will be shown, however, and 
diis is a matter of the first importance, that observation and inference 
are processes which are not, among the Australians, organized upon 
the same plan that our own formal systems of valid reasoning demand. 
This is not to say diat die Australian aboriginal is a being mentally 
inferior to ourselves, or tiiat he is incapable of our particular kind of 
reasoning, or that he has a pre-logical mentality, or wliat not. The 
facts point clearly in the opposite direction, namely that the Australian 
aboriginal native endowment is quite as good as any European’s, if 

^ TA^ v^Jftanld, Eo. 



itot bener. tn support of the latter statement there exists a certain 
amount of evidence of the weightiest kind^ such, for example, a$ the 
opinions of observers who have lived among them for many years 
and who are not by any means inclined lo be prejudiced in their 
favour,^ Then there is the more direct evidence of the effects of 
schooling, tlie rapidity with which the native learns, and, what is 
more important, dte consistency with which he generally maintains 
that learning, as is abundantly ^rne our by sudi a fact as the recent 
achievement of a school whose scholars were comprised entirely of 
aborigines, and wliich for three successive years was ranked as die 
highest standing school, from the point of view of scholarslup, in 
Australia.' Hie ease with which the natives acquire good English 
when it is spoken to them as compared with the difficulty with which 
the white man acquires the naKve language has often b«n remarked 
upon by white observers.® Such a fact as that a pure blooded aboriginal 
who had learnt to play the game of draughts, by ft-atching over the 
shoulders of players engaged In die game, recently decisively beat 
the ex-draughts champion of Australia in a series of matches, is also 
worth mentioning.^ Instances of this kind could be greatly muldpUed. 
Finally, there is the evidence of the intelligence tests which point 
strongly to an excellent native mental endowment.® So far as the 
evidence goes there can be little doubt that in the Australian race 
we are dealing with a group of mankind which is endowed by nature 
witii a brain diat is exceptionally good, so that such differences and 

^ R. Sfn^thp 7%^ ^ Fkipthp i vi;$ft.p Mdiboumc and Londcmi i j 

Banocy^ On Some Cus^uts of the Almrigincs of the Rivo' /. 

3 dtl.p eSS^ 

* C, E, C, Lcfnjyj AussradiiO ABorigflKi^ 1 Nobte-hcaErted C<mUmpora?y J?mfP'p 
Cipcev, l^a^p ul-]. 

" M. NL Benneti, Nates an liiA DaEdMim TriBe of Northern QueendnKlj” JoizFf^ of rAr 
hii, 1^37, 413; C* Pid^tinffp TC if Loiadoa, 

* From !tji« Dai/y London^ aTth z " Dnwgbtf SensE^otk Sdf-TfUJght 

N 3 t 3 \-« an itiC-OmfnpEOEL Jzioob Hnnis, m ftdJ-^oodcd nartivr hofn the Point 

Mission Sfpilloti^ an astonMiin;^ performAfice in Adflajde (South Amtnlb) drau^ti 
dUkmpionsKlp. HiUTis has npv^f Kcfl any books on the and (ij baowha^c rested solely 

on his natural play amd jldSI tospiipcd by playir^ Other miivm, ie th* missiEin fiadon^ He 
asiomidied; ^ dhuunpioni by dneating McGregor (NraF South Waltf] and Rr Holmci 
(Wevtcm Aojitnlla) in the winncfi" ebustr Holmu wts- 1917 thampioo, and a rreof^zed 
master pf the gamr., Hami wm In tike rpimd of the winners’ class by J- floyl« 

(Victorian ■dl^pLOn).’' 

* S- n, FoneCit»p TA# PM^xkalofiy ef a jPftflitlorti Pivplt, LondoOp 1931 ; *' Mentality of 

Amtalian Aborigine," ivp 193 It ^s 3 -^ 6 . “ T haw the highcit opbloo of the Austrian 

Kdal mtelll^eoce^'^ writes Professor PorEfiouri (p. 3S]|^ though be Ends audiEory tote Enemory 
of the native v^isj ddiaem, but ihii ihene i* overy lewn w bdlev e Is m edueahb qualiry, bow 
othera-ise could we ?»«o^ for the idilevomcnt of iht n«ive icho^ referred to above ? 
S« also H. Kr Fry and R. H. Pullrinc." The of the Austral Im Abo!t%liialj" AurtraSaa 

J^Ktrna/ ExptrimtAial Bioiesy ^iii, 1931^ 


pcculicinties of rtients] fiinctioniiig 35 the Australian exJuhits must 
be accoiinted due to culture and not to physical nature.* 

The processes of ratiocination which our own kind ot thought 
demands differ fkun those of the Australians because the demands 
of their particular kind of organized thought differ from ouis. It is 
quite as simple as that. The operations and processes of thought are 
determined by the nature of each culture, and Ideas have their existence 
chiefly as cultural artifacts. Perception, the metnung with which 
we invest the sensation whidi we experience, is the instrument as 
well as the raw material of thought, and wliat meaning each sensation 
shall have is rigorously determined by the universe of thought, the 
social structure, into which the individual is bom. Our percepts are 
as culturally determined as our institutions. In different cultures the 
identical experiences are responded to in quite different ways because 
the perceptual background against which they are evaluated differs 
according to what is considered obligatory in each culture. “ The 
difference in the mode of thought of primitive man and that of civilized 
man,” writes Boas, “ seems to consist largely in the difference of 
character of the traditional material with which the new perception 
associates itself. The instruction given to the child of primitive 
man is not based on centuries of experimentation, but consists of the 
crude experience of generations, ^en a new experience enters die 
mind of primitive man, the same process which we observe among 
civilized man brings about an entirely different series of associations, 
and therefore results in a different type of explanation-’' * 

The conception of the relativity of mind, of mind as a function 
and dependable variable of culture, is indispensable for a proper 
understanding of the way in which members of different cultures may 
come to think. The thought processes of other peoples may differ 
so widely from our own, diat they may, in a certain very definite 
sense, be said to Uve in an entirely diflereni world from our own, 
for the world of all human beings ts a world of conceptual thought, 
of culturally determined mental constructs, the categories of which 
may differ from others as the poles apart. It is impossible to judge 
the particular type of minds that different cultures create by standards 
whi^ take no cognizance of the standards and categories of the 
cultures to be judged, and it is for this reason upon all counts 

* Fiw a EUscaordani vtpvj. w K_ tL Wqollaidi, ** The Grtimh -or thfl Brain of tbc AustruJiali 
AbO(P’jCu»l,“ fff . 

» TA^ Pr^iiva Miinf New York, Spe uTm U. McConndp “ Mauming 

Ricisil AmOEig ine Tribci of Cape Yoft PenSnsala,"’ Onwwp vii, J&4. 



completely incorrect to assert that wliat are for us in pardculai cases 
necessarily acts of observation and of inference must likewise be so 
for all other peoples. Mainers easy phrase that maternity is matter 
of observation and paternity matter of inference is a case in point. 
The phrase is almost always quoted in connection with discussions 
of “ physiological paternity as if it were perfectly self-evident and 
quite beyond dispute^ and it is, of courscj quite true that judged from 
our own particular standpoint the statement^ did it but refer to 
conditions which were fttnciions of our own culture, would be self- 
evident, but as a description of the state of afiairs in cultures other 
than our own^ the statement deserved no more than the rank of a 
su^estioOj not what it has subsequently become, an incontestable 
axiom. It is, it must be granted, a state exceedingly difficult to envisage 
in which it were possible tliat maternity was anything but a matter 
of observation, the observation of a cause and an effect so exclusively 
linked together as mother and drild. Tlie difficulcy, however, arises 
solely from our misunderstanding, or raihi^ inadequate knowledge, 
of what the individuals chiefly concerned Itabiitially regard as cause 
and affeci in this connection, and from our substitution, insiead, of 
what we regard as such* In reality, as we sfiall have abundant oppor¬ 
tunity to observe, in Australia the native observes m die process of 
pregnancy and birth matters which are perfectly consistent with his 
view of die world, but which do not conform to the requirements of 
our particular conceptual system. Cause and effect the native observes 
readily enough according to his own physical system, but that system 
is very different from our own. It is a quite illegitimate proc^ure, 
therefore, 10 generalize the terms of our own physical system and to 
expect them to hold good for a culture which functions according to 
laws that differ widely from our own, and to draw a conclusion for 
the d^er^t culture upon die basis of laws which hold good for our¬ 
selves but not for the members of that different culture^ Tlie simplest 
logician could be trusted to detect the fallacy here were the matter but 
stated in such terms, but unfortunately it is not often stated in this way. 

It is perhaps the chief value of a study such as the prsent one tliat 
it renders the understanding of the concept of cultural relativity more 
easy of apprehension than a mere narrative account of any particular 
culture or a group of cultures could do, by treating of one central 
belief and the constellation of emotions, sentiments, thoughts, and 
behaviour whidi revolve about it in all tlieir functional interrebdons, 
tile culture actually as it works from the inside. 

Chapter II 



" Every human being, without dwtce on his own part, hut simply In vinuq 
of his birth and upbringing, becomes a member of what we call a mturid 
society. He belongs, that U, to a certain family and a certain natiDn, and dtia 
rnembcrstup lays upon him definite obligations and duties which he is called 
upon ID fulfil as a maiier of course, and on pain of social penalties and dis- 
sbilities, white at the same lime it confers upon him certain aodal n^ts and 
advantages/'— W. Robertson Simn, TAt Religbn of (At Stmiiu, tSp^, 

In order diat we may liave a clear conception of the framework of the 
cultures in which the telief we are to study functions, it is imperative 
at this stage to consider a type of such a cultural framework. For 
this purpose no Australian culture can serve to better advantage than 
that of the Amnta tribe of Central Australia. This tribe was for the 
first time fully described in the pioneer work of Australian ethnology 
by Baldwin Spencer and F. J, Gillen,* and it is upon the revised 
version of that work by Spencer ® that the following descriptive account 
b for the most part In what follows I have attempted to provide 

tlie background for our future dbeuraions of die conceptional beliefs 
of the natives, and have of necessity been constrained to limit myself 
to categorically pur essentials. 

Tlic Amnta, in virtue of their central position, were rebtively 
untouched by white influence at the time (1836) when they were first 
studied by Spencer and Gillen, and it is generally agreed that their 
bolated position in the heart of the continent of Australia, where they 
can have had but little contact with otho^ tribes, which lie scattered 
in all directions upon their periphery as far as the coasts, has enabled 
tliem to preserve their cultural structure in a form that has under¬ 
gone relatively little change since very early times, and renders it 
probably the most primitive of all Australian cultures. Tbe exira- 
oidinary homogeneity of Australian culture, of which I have already 

* Jlti NaavM Tn&ti Cfntfiii Loinkm* 

* TV /f/xiAfdr ^ Looddn,. 



spoken^ renders ihe coraiTion origin of die cultures comprising it r 
matter of practical certainly. Tliere are^ of course, variations in the 
details of the structure of each culture, but these are, as a rtile, very 
inCDnsiderable, so that any particular culture may, in a general way, 
be taken to represent the pattern of Australian culture, die type of 
whicli is represented by the culture of die Anmta. 

Th^ Ahutjta 

The Aninta, consisting of some six local groups or hordes, are a 
tribe ornadon which numbered about two thousand individuals when 
they were originally studied by Spencer and Gillen in i8^, a number 
which probably represented some%vhai less dian die optimum of their 
population. To-day, owing chiefly to the destructive effects of 
missionary and odier white influences, the popubuon of the Arunta 
is reduced to some 3 so souls, whilst their culture is practically 
destroyed.^ Tlie Arunta live in the very heart of Australia, occupying 
a territory which extends from the Macumba River on the soudi to 
70 mi lei north of the Macdonnell Ranges, a distance of about 
40Q miles, and lying between longitude 131—136'^ and biitude ^3- 
actually in the region described by the intersection of the Tropic of 
Capricorn by die I34ih degree of longitude.® Thus, the Arunta are 
the most centrally simared of all die native tribes of Austrah'a. To 
the north of the Arunta live the llpirra, the Kaidsha, the Warrainunga, 
and the Tjin^lli tribesto the nordi-east live the lliaura and the 
Wotgaia, to the north-west die Walpari, to the west die Luritja, 
and to the south-east the Urahimna. Map, Fig i.) The territory 
occupied by all these tribes extends for a distance, from north to 

*■ For at tnmwonhy ind dispafisJonatc Kcoupt of die iw.xe h> vhidi Arunta as well « 

other Auaudian tribes llaw bBcn nduoetJp ve D. PartwiUS, PfMt^ 

Lpndon^ 19J1. Swalw Speocff^i prt&ee to Tkt Arunta The condituMis bul cufMrily 
rtftrnd to En ih^ works tdl bur ooe fracnon of the story whidi has cverywhew ifi aiboHginaJ 
Aiisti^ia^ whoTVer the white anan hiW ^nctntedp been the same. A Hory of furhieB midty^ 
injustiDCt disposscfinoo, and wholetile murder of rudvc popuiuiioru^ in too in»iy casa by 
o(Bciil}y oawinited hodJfti fuch u die white police fomC' For a btif account of the brur^ 
muidcr of tome dtirty innocent natives by the poliee wiihln recont year*, Ke C. K. C, Lefroy^ 
AustraUaxi Aborfgina^ a NDbic^heartfid: Ract,^ Canf*mpvt&rj Rrriew, tya^, aaa-j, Foir an 
early acwuir of limilar depreclatifltcifi, bc C Mundyp Our Afwi^odtj, Laodon, chapter v, 

104 One of the mou sympadhrEic wriEont on Auitraiia, who knowt Austi^ia ai few people 

know it, hai recently remarked : " [l Li na be noted fhat the whites ace alwayi Emirderetl and 
ihe bbAs \\m kilfwl^" C T. Mithgqfi, Aurtra^f Ojcfbid, 191*, ijx* The vanie 

wTtEcr ttjill the foUowi^ i A Itation manag^cr asked Mb abari^nM ifOCkEttan to Hde a 
ratho' refractory coIl Tne black fellow did not relish the Afl^ 0 little thoi^hr he uid, 

Mine tinidt you better ride *ini bosa^ BlachfelJd'W getliltg Very icaror now,” ibkL 1^4. 

* An exeeElenr aecoMAi of ihe ^lyuo^raphy of Cectial Australia ii lo be found in CL X 
CWmrf AustroMti^ OxfoM, 193^ j. hut the best of aO cudi accounti h 3 ^ Speoccr^s 
iPjni^r\g 4 a Aiiiiruha^ a Vol&^ Laadorir 1923,. 



south, of some 700 miles, and from east to west for some 450 miles. 
The nature of the country in this area varies much. At Lake Eyre, 
in the south, the land is below sea-level, and as one proceeds noitli- 
wards for a distance of between 500 and 400 miles the land gradually 
rises until it reaches an elevadon of 2,000 feet. The soutliem portion 
of the land constitutes the Lower Steppes; the elevated plateau 
running northwards of this, the southern limit of which is roughly 
outlined by the James and Macdonnell Ranges which ejctend from east 
to west for a distance of some 3^0 miles, constitutes the Higher 
Steppes. It is in the Higher Steppes region, b the vicinity of the 
Macdonnell Ranges near Alice Springs, that the Arunta dwell. Flowing 
through this immediate region are tlie main water-courses, the 
Finke, Todd, Hugh, Ellery and Palmer Rivers, with their tributaries 
which take their rise on the nonhem side of Ae main ranges of the 
Higher Steppe lands, the Macdonnell, James, Waterhouse, Kirchauff, 
Gill, Levi, and Stiangeway Ranges. These quartzite rangies often 
rise to a height of nearly f ,000 feet, being separated from one another 
by deep gorges and valleys, in die latter of which the soil is hard 
and yellow and but thinly covered with exliausted scrub, with 
occasional patches of pines or cycads, and stray gum trees with pure 
wliite crunks. Away to the south and west of the Steppe lands lie 
die great true desen tenons. 

The only streams of any importance in the Arunta country are die 
Albetga, Stevenson, and Hamilton, which traverse the land from the 
west and unite to form the Macumba River, which at hood times 
empties itself into Lake Eyre towards the south-east. It is only very 
rarely that the rainfall is sufficient 10 fill the beds of these streams; 
but generally a local flood will occur in one of them, or on rare 
occasions a more widely distributed rainfall than usual may fill the 
creeks and also the Finkc River, which flows south from the Mac- 
donnell Range far away to the north. At such rimes the rising waters 
will overflow their banks and flood the low-lying lands adjacent to 
them, converting wliat for many months has been dry and parched 
land mto a single sheet of water. The change, however, is of short 
duration, the rainfall ceases as suddenly as it appeared, and tlie water 
sinks. The w-ater will continue to flow in the creeks for a few days, 
and then cease, only the scattered deeper holes retaining any. “ The 
sun once more shines hotly, and in the damp ground seeds which 
have lain dormant for months germinate, and, as if by magic, the 
once arid land becomes covered with luxuriant herbage. Birds, 


frogs, lizards, and insects of all kinds can be seen and heard where 
before everything was parched and silent. Plants and animals alike 
make the most of the brief time in which th^ can grow and reproduce, 
and with them it is simply a case of a keen struggle, not so much 
against living enemies, as against their ph}>s]cs] envitonment/' ^ 

The transformadon is, indeed, striking, and it does not fail to 
leave its impress upon the mind of die nadve. 

During the greater part of the year the larger number of water¬ 
courses are for the most pan dry, except, as has already been stated, 
at flood rimes, die only available water being generally found in deep 
waterholes and gorges sheltered from the rays of the relentless sun 
which beat dow'n upon the earth at a temperattire of in the 
shade. At nighi-dme the temperature often f^s below freezing-point. 
Tlie nadvc finds both extremes of temperature far from comfortable. 
During the day-time he tends to avoid the sun by keeping to sucli 
places as are in the shade, under some rocky promontory or in the 
umbrage afforded by the branches of a tree, or under the simple 
lean-io built of a few sdeks and shrubs, which he builds as his only 
form of shelter from the elements. At night-dme the cold is more 
or less successfully kept at bay by means of a small fire made of twigs, 
around which the native curls himself, and keep the fire going by 
replenishing it with twigs as the necessity arises. His idea is to be as 
comfortable as possible, 10 have a fire which smouldeis just sufficiently 
enough to keep Ids body consistently wann, not to make a hie, as the 
white man does, of such a kind that at one rime it is too hot to approach, 
and at another too cool to be of any use without danger to the sleeper. 
As it is, almost every native bears signs of bums sustained during 
sleep whilst curled around their slow hres at night. 

In rime of drought, when even the waterholes and gorges no longer 
yield any water, the native is able to secure water from such sources 
as tree roots, or by dig^ng in certain likely spots, often to a great 
deptli, or he may satisfy his thirst fay opening a vein in his arm and 
drinking the blood which issues from it. Under ordinary circum¬ 
stances, kangaroos, rock-wallobics, emus, and other forms of game 
are not scarce, and tliere is an ample supply of water, which the 
native is careful to keep free from poUurion. The men procure the 
larger game and the women catch such animals as rats and lizards, 
they also gather large quandties of giass seeds, tubers, and fruits, 
and with their dig^ng-sricks secure the grubs of various insects and 

* TAf y 



such burrowing animals as small marsupials and various species of 

Tlie Arunta are organized into a large number of small local groups 
or hordes, each of wlucJi owns and occupies a given area of knd, tile 
strictly demarcated boundaries of which are well known lo every 
native. The natives generally speak of themselves by rhe name of 
the locality whidi they inliabit. These local groups are composed 
brgely, though not entirely, of mdividuals who describe themselves 
by the name of some animal or plant; almost every animal or plant 
having its representative amongst the human inliabicants. Tliese groups 
may^ tlierefore, be considered as local totentic Und-owiung groups- 
Tlicse groups were never very large, tlie largest tno^m to Spencer 
and Gillen were the Witchetty Grub people, consisting of some forty 
individuads occupying a territory of about loo square miles, and 
the smallest a member of the Plum Tree people, of one individual 
with but a few square miles of territory.^ 

Local groups of die same designation may be found in many parts 
of the territory occupied by the tribe* 

Each local group lias a head man or Inkiia^ who assumes the lead 
in carrying out the functions of the totemic group. Outside the local 
group he does not, as a rule, possess any specbl powers by virtue of 
his position in that g^oup, and such weight as his or any other man*s 
opinion may have in tribal matters depends endrely upon his individual 
reputation, though in certain cases an Iniata may obtain some generally 
recogmzed audiority within the tribe because he happens to be the 
head of a numerically important group. Tlie In^aia is not Sn any sense 
a chief, and there txh^s nothing at In to the office of diieftainship 
among the Australians. The InJtata lias no power over anyone* He 
is not chosen for die position of Iiikam because of his ability, the office 
h hereditary, and passes from father to son, providing the son is of 
the same toiemic group, which is not alw^ays the case. In a kan^rao 
group the Inkata must, of course, always be a kangaroo man* Should 
the Inkaia have no son to succeed him he wiU generally nominate his 
successor, who will always be either a brother or a brotlieris son* 
It is die Inkata who calls the elder men together for the purpose of 
discussing important business, but his chief function is to act as 
custodian of the sacred storehouse, which is called tlie PertalcAeraj 
and is generally situated in a cleft in some rocky range, or special 
hole in the ground, in which, concealed from view, die sacred objecis 

* IbkL^^. 


of the group are kept. To the^ sacred storehouses no woman, 
child, or umni dated man may approach on pain of death. The 
women know die general situation of these storehouses and on their 
wanderings give them a wide berdi. So sacred is the area of the 
Pertalchera that anyone who is being pursued, no matter how grave 
his offence, may, should he take refage within the boundaries of the 
Pertalclicm, claim the right of asylum, and so long as he stays within 
those boundaries he will remain unharmed. It is the Irt^ta, too, 
whose task it is to determine at what time certain ceremonies, such as 
tile increase ceremonies, shall take place, the object of these ceremonies 
being to increase the supply of die animal or plant bearing the name 
of the panicular group which performs die ceremony. 

The only other classes of men of any importance in the group are 
the sch-called medicine-men, of w'hom there are three distinct grades, 
die liighest of which are capable of communicating with the crihal 
spirits, die Jnmtariniay and are also able to see spirit diildren. The 
medictne-tnen are not hereditary classes, but men who liave undergone 
special and severe forms of initiadon Inio the profession under the 
supers'Uion of otlier medidne-men, nor arc tliey, unlike the InJiata., 
nece^arily to be found in every local group, nor yet have they any 
special powers outside their purely ma^cal functions, though in vimie 
of being possessed of these magical abilities they are regarded as 
superior to other men. 

The general government of the tribe is carried out by an assembly 
or council which is usually drawn from the ranks of the older males, 
for these will generally be oi greater experience in all knowledge per¬ 
taining to the tribe than die younger men, diough younger men 
learned in the lore of the tribe ate sometimes to be found in the 
assernbiy, to the exclusion of older men not so learned as they are. 
Age is not the important tiling, but wisdom is,* Tlie assembly has 
no fixed consdtution nor is any definite name applied to it, and its 
deliberadons are carried out in a perfectly informal manner. Tlicre 
are no definite times at which it meets, and it is called togedier only 
at such times when there arises some important matter affecting the 
tribe which retjuires considerauon. Normally, die ariendon of the 
assembly is devoted to the arranging of corroborees, and the initiation 
ceremcnies. Dates have to be fixed and the programmes discussed 

^ TJif i* iRf TAt Aicnsimily uf; rqc E. Aodi, Nona on GovstA- 

nunik afW Oiftlt,'* Quit/ulnAf BtyUtun M*. J* Bri^ibstK, 150^j 

j 4 Jvfalur^ of IM OlrX^H^, fAt Mi/rvXfM irf Rafpk RaihiogA Loikion, 311-1 



and outlined in detail, so that thos€ who are to take part in them may 
be fiilly prepared in advance^ Law-breakers are tried before die 
assembtyi and the proper punishments are prescribed by it. 

The Anmta liave an extraordinarily highly develop^ conception 
of justicej and punishments, widi an admirable balance of good sense 
and equity, arc devised to fit the crime. The form which the punish- 
menc for various crimes and misdemeanours takes is traditionally 
prescribed. The offender is always encouraged to stare his case and 
to defend himself against the charges brought against him, but once 
a sentence is pronounced it is always carried out, alrhough an individual 
may seek to evade it by leavdng the tribe for a time in the hope that 
when he returns the feeling against him may have calmed down, and 
the punishment perhaps not be carried out with the severity which 
would originally have characterized it. 

In all matters whatsoever the judgment of the assembly k respected 
and supported by the horde as a whole. 

Tlie nadve generally camps near a waterhole, and when the 
advantages of this have been fairly eidiausted he moves on to ano ther j 
he cultivates nothing and domesticates notliing j the half-wild dingo, 
and the mongrels resulting from interbreeding with the introduced 
dog, which are to be found in bigie numbers in every native camp, 
have not been trained, as in many other Australian tribes, to assise 
in the hunting of game, and agriculture h totally unknown, as also is 
the stor^e of food, except for immediate ceremonial occasions. As a 
general rule food is merely gathered and then Immediately consumed, 
everything that is edible being regarded as food. 

The members of ^h local group wander in small pomes, often, 
for example, two or more biodiers with their wives and children, 
over the land which they own^ camping at fav^ourite spots where the 
presence of waterholcs^ with their usual accompaniments of vegetable 
and animal food, enables them to supply their wants* 

Each family, constsdng of a male and one or more wives and 
children, accompanied by dogs, occupies a or lean-to, con¬ 

structed of sticks and slirubs, in the foreground of which a small fire 
is kept burning. This constitutes the family hearth upon which all 
cooking k done, and round which the family, and perhaps a visitor 
or twoj will gather to enjoy the social amenities during the day-time, 
and sleep during the night. 

In simuner the occupants of the cajtip are early astir, in winter 
rising only when the sun is well up. If food be plentiful, the men 


and women will lounge about while the children romp and play. If 
food be required^ the women will set out with thdr dig^g-^ticks^ 
and piuhisj or wc^en troughs, in search of small animals, vegetables, 
and grubs. And tlie men will perhaps set off, armed with spears, a 
spear thrower, and boomerangs,in search of larger game, such as 
emus and kangaroos. 

Cooking is performed by the use of hot ashes, and the preparation 
of the animal for the hearth is done by means of knives and scrapers 
foshioned of stone, these implements being supplemented by the 
carver’s teeth whenever necessary. 

The natives have no pottery, Water is carried in the wooden pitchi, 
but it cannot be heated in this or in any other utensil that they possess, 
hence, hot water is ordinarily unknown to them.® Food collected 
on foraging expeditions is carried in bags woven of grass or rushes. 

The natives pay little attention to time, though this is not to say 
that they have no conception of it. Time is counted by sleeps, moons, 
or phases thereof, and for longer periods, by seasons. TTie various 
periods of the day are distinguish^ by definite names. Not having 
any great necessity to count in terms of large numbers, they count 
up to five by the lingers of the hand, anything above four or five is 
generally denoted by the term oburra^ meaning much or great. 

Among the important functions of the local totemic groups is the 
performance of certain periodic ceremonies. Whereas these local 
groups represent a fundamental feature of the social organization of 
the tribe, perhaps its most fundamental feature, as in the majority of 
Australian tribes, is represerited by its division into two exogamous 
intermarrying groups or moieties^ each of which, among the Anmta, 
is further divided into two seettans ; among the northern Anmca the 
four sections thus resulting are further subdivided into two suS^ 
secHonj^ the total number thus obtaining being ei^t subsections, 
four in each moiety. 

These variety divisions are concerned with the regulation of 
marriage. The totemic organization, unlike the conditions in other 
Australian tribes, has nothing whatsoever to do with the regulation 
of marriage. A simple diagram will serve to illustrate how these 
marriage regulations work tn practice, 

^ BooEnennga amcTig t^e Arunta SK twt af dw vviitxy u duy m other pam 

d For sn atDcounl of ihjc booiiicm]^, icc D. S, DmvklwrL " Atutrallad Tknvwif^^ 

Thron'ing-clubc, md Boamonn^" i 4 m£raaA AaiAnpoioguT^ Exxviii, 19^6^ 

■ Thm li no tvMttvx thai iJwy Juve e%er upon noijon of heating vner by 

tbe u$e of bat sAckocs. 



Thfr two moteries A and B consists of two s>0ctions A of 
sections Panunga and Pultaray B of sections Purula and Kumara^ 
thus I— 

Mqrinr Mditft H, 

Pcfwf^ jPu^tfAz 


A Paniuiga man must marry a Purula woman, bur his children wiU 
not belong to hU own section, Panimga, but to the other section in 
his moiety, the sub-sectton Appungerta of the section Bultara. When 
a Bultara man marries a Kumaia woman their children will belong 
to the other section in tlte father's moiety, that is Panunga, and when 
a Kumaia man marries a Bultara woman their children will belong 
to die Purula section, and it is the same for the eight subsections. 
Actually a man may only marry into a definite one of the subsections 
of his marriage section, according to the following arrangement ;■— 


Moiity B. 

SectiDn T jf 

■ 4^-— 

——*■ Puriitij 1 


SfsctKm I 

Swiiofl 4 

Thus, a rnan luarries a Purula woman, and their offsprjjig 

will belong lo the Appungem subsecnon in the section Bultara^ 
and so on. A man^ therefore^ can never many a woman of his own 
local group but must take a wife from another local group belonging 
to the opposite moiety^ and lo the ^don whidi is the complementary 
of his own in that moiety. Tills kind of local exogamy, as Raddiffe- 
Brown was the first to point oui,^ U the result chiefly of the regulation 
of marriage by relationship, for not only is a man required by these 
regulations to marry into a particular subsection of the opposite 
moiety, but above all else he is required to marry a woman in tliat 
subsection who stands in a particular genealogical relationship to 
him^ namely the daughter of his mother^s mother^s brother*s daughter, 
that is, his cousin on the raother^s side once removed. Should there 
be no such immediate genealogical relative available, then be may 
marry any one of the potential wives in the propver complenaentary 
secrion who is thus dosely related to him. 

Marriage among the Arunta is then plainly determined by reladon- 

» A, R, Raddifi^BrowD, - Thi^ Trib« nf Watmi 

xliif* I IS9, _r ^ 


ship and relationship alone; An individual can only marry Ins or iier 
cross<ousin once removed, 

A girl is frequently allotted to her husband in marriage even before 
she is bom, but possession of her is not taken until she is of marriage'- 
able age, a period generally determined by tlie onset of menstrua* 
tion, which is said to occur at about la years of The manner 
in which the allotment takes place is by the mutual arrangement 
between two men, standing in relationship to one another of man and 
his mother’s moliter’s brother's son, tliat tlie daughter’s daughter of 
one becomes the wife of the son of tlie other. Since the arrangement 
is entered into when the boy and the mother of the ^rl (yet unborn) 
whom he is to many are about the same age, it is obvious tfiat the 
actual wives of the men will he considerably younger than diemselves. 

Tlie betrothal is simply a formal matter into which no love or sexual 
element enters. The arrangement entails certain obligations on the 
part of the future husband towards the father of the girl and the 
relatives on her side- He must also ever afterwards avoid his mother- 
in-^law, and never speak to her or even look at her. 

From the standpoint of the male, marriage means the acquisition 
of a helpmate and a servant, who will carry his possessions for liim 
when they are on the march, since he himself must travel unburdened 
in order that he, as the hunter, may be free and unhampered in liis 
movements. The woman will prepare his food for him, make herself 
generally useful, and look after his children when he is away. In 
virtue of these functions a woman is regarded as something of an 
economic asset, and the more wives a man has and the younger they 
are, the wealthier is their Oftmer esteemed, for women may be used 
in barter, and exchanged for certain commodities. Thus, upon this 
conception of the married woman's position in society, she is not, 
as Frazer has stated,® altogether unlike a domesticated cow—althou^ 
I do not think it would do to press the analogy too far—who is 
owned as property along with all her products, natural or odierwise, 
and she together with all the fruits of her labours may be disposed of 
by her husband, her lord and masier, down to the children that 
come from, or rather through, her. The women appear to be quite 
happy under this arrangement, and they are, on the whole, treated 
very decently by their husbands, 

I .^ipw wkicE otirscn'crf gKflieriltly undfingsdnuAt the cl rurivo, it It prdE^Abit that 
Ic3»i ont <ir two should be added co ihitltgure^ 

* e™ Lendoo^ h 



The Amnta male lcx>ks upon marriage chiefly as an economic 
an^gement and not as a sexual one, the latter factor, indeed, playing 
tije least important rple.^ A "wife is indispensable for the purpose of 
bearing children, and children have a certain economic value, for the 
children of both sexes from a very early age are encouraged to assist 
as far as they are able in supplying the needs of the family, the girls 
generally accompanying their mothers with their own Utile digging- 
sticks on her foraging trips, wbUst the boys set off ettlier alone or in 
small bands, usually independently of their fathers, to try iheir luck 
with the largier game for themselves. The economic is tfie dominant 
motive in marriage. Since uninitiated individuals of boih sexes are 
forbidden to eat of a very large number of animaU and plants, all of 
which are well known to them, upon pain of being visited by certain 
very unpleasant afflictions which would inevitably follow upon the 
consumption of such forbidden foods, much of what the little ones 
bring in will go to their parents, whilst such things as they are per- 
mined to eat they are required to share. Children are not, as a rule, 
bartered^ though on rare occasions they may be so exchanged. All 
children are treated wirii exceptional l^dness and aflfecdon and an 
extraordinary amount of consideration, and only very rarely, and upon 
the greatest provocation, are they chastised physically.^ 

Thus far we have been using the term ^^relationship’" without 
giving any indication of the sense in which it is undei^tood by the 
Amnta. To this matter we may now turn our attention. 

Among the Arunta, as in every Australian tribe, iliere exists a 
compKcated system of reladonship terms expressive of the relation¬ 
ship of every individual to every other individual member of the 
tribe, as well as to such individuals who are not members of the tribe 
but with whom it is possible to have social relations. These tencs 
bear with them a defuiite system of reciprocal rights and duties which 
are observed between the individuals to whom and by whom the term 
is applied. These terms tbemselves do not possess the limited 
connotation that our own inrimate relationship terms possess, as 
when we speak of " wife ”, “ father ”, and " mother ”, and thereby 
denote a particular individual, but they are extended among the 
Arunta, to embrace a much wider group of individuals whose status 
is genealogically determined, that is, determined by means of descent 
and marriage, or buth and affinity. In short, these terms refer lo 

R fiasedawt TA# ill. 

* B. MaliciiCiwiki., TA# tirn^irig fA4r jifutmiliftA 1 Jp chspiCT vii. 


individual iclatiGns arising out of the solidarity of the family. Hius 
a man is always classed with his brother and a woman with her 
sister; so that if a given term of relationship Is applied to a man by 
a particular individual the same term is applied to his brother, and a 
particular term to their children^ and so on. A father’s brother is a 
“ father '*,and the latter’s children are my brothers and sisters. Within 
the Immediate family distinctions are recognized and expressed by the 
use of suffixes of the order of birth of the children of the family, thus 
the term arulkalinta is applied to the hrst or oldest child, the Idea of 
seniority is described by the term chorla^ the youngest child is kmitdima^ 
the idea of juniority Is expressed hy the term chiftlda^ and allowance 
is made for the description of mtermediate siblings by the use of the 

a h ( 







1 i 




- 9 











= 9 












TIr nlewmttiwce of CtHmugp bins in a. fbur<fit$9 CfOtA odusin lyislimi whm d rmm 

tfornH hij maiher^t d^gltEEr. (After Fomme.) 

term orUbtia, meaning in the very middle; the lerni mhtippa being 
used to dfflcribe siblings on either side of the middle one. S imilar 
terms are in use with respect to the father’s brothers and the mother’s 
sisters and their children. In this way, it will be seen, every individual 
ultimately comes to be distinguished by a ddinite term of relationship 
from every other individual. The fellacy of treating such relarionship 
terms as if they served to define groups of individuals and nothing 
else is obvious. 

A second principle which is characteristic of the Arunta, as well as 
all other Australian relationship systems, is that which brings relatives 
by marriage into the class of consanguineal rebtives. Thus, the wife 
of any man I call “ father ” becomes my “ mother ”, and the husband 
of any woman I call " mother ” becomes my ’* father 


It must, however, he quite clear that cross-cousin marriage whether 
associated with the four- or eight-class system produces a reciprocal 
equation between af&nals or relatives by marriage and consanguineals. 
As Fortune puts it, the marrying male line a has a lien in perpetuity 
on the sisters of another mate line 3 , S to e, and so on until ^ is to a as 
line a is to 

The most inteiesting social consequence of this system, as Fortune 
shows, is that a man cannot marry a woman without creating a lien 
in perpetuity upon the male line from which she comes in fevour of 
his m^e descendants. The women wlio are sisters of a male line are, 
as it were, in entail to an opposite male line.* It should be quite clear 
then that upon such a system the marrying partners and their 
respective relatives actually belong tn the class of consanguineals 
even before marriage. 

A third principle, called by RadcHlTe-Brown the principle of non- 
limitation of range, is the characteristic recognition and classification 
of relationships between every member of society, whether of one’s 
own or of another tribe, with whom one is likely to have any social 
relations whatsoever.® 

Such a relationship system is in reality very much more precise 
and thoroughgoing than our own relationsbip system, for whilst 
one of its characteristics is that it embraces under a single term a 
number of individuals who fall into status groups according to the 
above-mentioned principles, it also serves to define the individual 
rebtions, the rights, duties, and forms of behaviour, obtaining between 
the individuals constituting the various kinds of rebtives very much 
more particularly and significantly more nicely than our own system 
does. Thus, for example, an individual, among the Amnta, behaves 
to all individuals to whom the same general lerm is applied, such, 
for example, as father or mother, in a certain general way, but he 
does not behave in exactly the same way to each of these individuals, 
for he makes a conscious ^stinction between near and distant relatives 
who fail into the same terminological class. Thus, he will pay more 
particular attention to the observance of his duties in rebtion to his 
near rebtives than to his more distant ones, for eitample, his own 
father and the latter’s brother, junior and senior, as distinguished 
from a distant cousin of hb father. Thus degrees of relationship are 

R, F- Fonunc* “ A Ncrtie on Some F^irnw of Kinship ^7^ 

■ A, R '^Tbe Soddi of Aiutrdiaa Tribe*,^ ii^ 

19^ 44- 


recognized, and tliese distinctions wMch have so definite an effect 
upon the individual’s behaviour are based^ it must be apparent, upon 
the recognition of the closeness of the tics extsting between the 
members of the immediate family. 

Such facts have been too often ovexlookcd in the tlieoretical dis' 
cussions concerning Australian systems of lelaiionsliip, the usual 
procedtue having been to assume that the classification of certain 
individuals into relationship groups distinguished by a common 
term signified that for all practical purposes no distinction was made 
between the memheis of such “ groups but as we have already 
seen in connecdoii with hut a single institution, namely marriage, 
such distinctions have the very practical effect of determining which 
particular woman among his potential wives *' a man may actually 
many. As we liave already said, more attention is paid to the recogni¬ 
tion of definite individual relationships among the Aiunm than is the 
case among ourselves. Every individual must stand in a definite 
relationship to every other individual, or, put in another way, the 
relations between individuals must be definitely and clearly defined, 
for ivithout tlie tcbtionslups thus defined it would be impossible for 
tlie individual to regulate his conduct in the ordinary course of social 
life in a workable fashion. Hence, as Radcliffe-Biown has pointed 
out, such a statement as that of Frazer that the Australian terms of 
kinship " designate relationship between group, not between 
individuals is extremely misleading. 

In the relationship system then, we liave a series of fanctisnitl 
relationships which regulate the social relations between individuals, 
and form, among other things, tlie basis upon which the marriage 
sections operate. Thus, all individuals of one’s own generation bear 
a relationship to a particular individual which is reflected in the sub¬ 
section to which diat particular individual belongs, thus one's actual 
blood brotiiers and sisters will belong to one’s own subsection, but 
one’s father will belong to another subsection of another section in 
the same moiety, as will one’s father's brothers and cousins; one’s 
mother’s brother will belong to yet another section in the opposite 
moiety, as will one’s maternal cousins and one’s eligible wives. Thus, 
one’s fether’s brothets and his cousins will ail be denoted as fathers, 
likewise one’s mother’s sisters will be called mothers. It should be 
understood that these terms are in use irrespective of whether or not 
the individual is married. All these relationship exist for the individual 
* |. G. Fraazr^ JflJ* 


from the moment he is bom. From an early age he learns into which 
subsection he may many anti into which he may noij and he knows 
that death is the penalty prescribed for those who violate die rules 
which, of course, are equivalent to laws. He leams, too, the various 
dudes, restrictions, obligations, and privileges which are associated 
with each degree of relationship, and the penalties which will inevitably 
follow upon their neglect or violation. He is expected to provide his 
classificaiory Others with a share of the g;anw lie obtains, to avoid, 
and neither to speak to nor look at, his cbssihoitory mothar-indaw, 
and so on. 

Now, whilst it is of the first importance for a proper understanding 
of the Arunta relationship system to realize that it is based essendally 
upon the reladotis holding between parents and children, and between 
the children of the same parents and their offspring within the 
immediate family, it must be clearly understood tlut the question of 
hlood rdatknsfdp does not play any part whatsoever in the natives’ 
conception of relationship. Such a thing as blood relationship, of 
consanguinity, is not recognized by the native j for him, instead, 
all relationships are soctal, and are based upon clearly distinguished 
social factors. The distinction which the native customarily makes 
between individuals is not as between blood relatives and “ otlicrs ” 
(not-relatives), but between near and distant relatives. 

Every meinber of society is, as we have seen, a relative of one kind 
or another, and each individual is so by virtue of the genealogical 
connection which exists between himself and odiers, a connection 
which may always, even thou^ on occasion there may be some 
difficulty in doing so, be traced back to every family in the group. 
But in all this, no question of blood arises. The family itself, consisting 
of parents and children, is not regarded as a blood group, as a biological 
or physiolo^cal unit, but as a social group. The conditions of 
necessarily intimate and peculiar family association—prolonged over 
a long period of time—produce of themselves the very definite and Im- 
reaching eSeci of socially binding the members of die family logedier 
in a unique manner, a rnarmer which receives the fullest individual 
as well as social recognition. It is the psychological conditions 
arising out of the social relations which necessarily exist between 
individuals living in close and continued association with one another 
which give the ^milyits peculiarly integrated and well-defined status in 
all txjramunities whatsoever—even among ourselves, w'heie the bio¬ 
logical or physiological relationships are assumed to play a dominant role. 


The fact that a number of individuals, from their earliest days, have 
grown up together, in association with a particular man and his wife 
or wives, to whom they arc under a large variety of obligations, 
whose duty it has been to care for, to educate, and to insorucr them 
during their early years, will naturally be operative in ptodudng 
certain sentiments between the individuals thus associated which 
will differ very appreciably from such sentiments as may result from 
association with one’s ebssificatory fatliers and mothers. These 
sentiments do not, however, involve any conception of a biological 
relationship or affinity between the individual, his siblings, and his 
immediate father and mother. It should be remembered that every¬ 
where the association of any child or children with a particular group 
of individuals is not a biologically but a socially detennined matter. 
There is nothing tn the simple fact itself of a child being bom into a 
family or sodal group which renders it necessary that that child shall 
remain assoctaced with the family or the group inio w'hich it 1% bom ; 
were it not for the fact that it is considered socialiy the b^t possible 
arrangement that the pattern set by the physical conditions, but not 
determined by them, should be followed socially, the arrangement 
would unquestionably not existJ 

It should be clear, then, that the Arunta understand by tebtionship 
not biological affinity but social affinity. 

Among the Arunta fatherhood and motherhood are conceptions 
wliich possess a somewhat different meaning from that which they 
possess among ourselves. Among ourseives the emphasis is placed 
upon the biological fact of reladonship. We think of our father and 
mother bindamentally and essentially as die individuals who conceived 
us, one particular man and one particular woman, and it is this fact, 
the fact that they are the individuals who conceived us, which determines 
at least our terminological and genealo^cal relationship to one 
anotlier* In reality, of course, fatherhood and motherhood among 
ourselves are conceptions no less stxtially founded than they are 
among the Arunta. Where sextial relations have not existed between 

^ Wc may notke here thxt this arraBi^ciiieat has in our owa dme com to be cOniidcfod as 
harcUy the bc^ pn!»ih1c imd at Jwi om riw Hussia^ at one iim4 

officially declared its inlmdon of uldmaidy die ^Inily and the sanoiaf^ ctucody 

of itw btitlft bom into it toihe paients. UntiJ i^cndy Sate in Russia wru^ud iho 

tHTcnti of ihc child '3L‘jdt it* care, but ihu arrangement wss con$ideF«d tcmponiry. The tlmory 
beii^ that the faoifEy of its very rGtttiflc ttandf in aJltagOniim Id the State^ that the indlvidiia] 
u lesundjlly a m^inhef of the State;, and not of a paidroilar luilt like the emdLy, whtch wss 
regarded b ao arbitrary arnu^cmefu. There if rcuon to believe^ hov^rr, that the Rtks&Lana 
have now dedded agditfl lllil view. 



parents and children fatherhood and motherhood are terms which 
from the socio-psychological standpoint can have no meaning for 
the individuals concerned. Just as there cannot be a family without 
social relations between die members constituting it, so there can be 
neither fatherliood nor motherhood in any but the narrow, and 
telatively unimpomnt biological and legal senses, without social 
rebtions of a very definite kind. It so happens that in our particular 
kind of social organization die biological or physiological rebtion- 
ships between individuals receive a special empliasis, whereas among 
the Arunia, biological relationships as we conceive them are not 
understood and therefore never considered. Among die Arunia 
dicre is no quesdon of any one man or woman conceiving a par- 
dcular individual. Individuals are simply not physiologically con¬ 
ceived at aU, and a particular man and woman are never diought of 
as having anydiing wliatsocver to do with the actual generation of a 
child, this, indeed, is something which is known to have been deter¬ 
mined in the far distant dream-time, the Akhtra, and men and women, 
according to Arunta belief, have nodung to do widi the matter. 

According to Arunta tradidon, in the early dream-time in the far 
distant past, or Alc^era, in tliat dmc when there were neither men 
nor women, there dwelt in the western sky two beings, of whom it 
is said that they were NumAokuUa^ that is, self-exisring beings who 
came out of nothing. And it happened one day that they discerned, 
far away to the east, a number of fruipertwa^ that is, rudimentary 
human beings or incomplete men, who possessed neither Umbs nor 
senses, who did not eat, and who each presented die appearance of a 
somewhat amorphous human being, all doubled into a rounded mass 
in which just the vague outlines of the various parts of die body 
could be seen. These Impertway who were desdned to be trans¬ 
formed into men and women by the Nuniiakuiloy represented tiie 
intermediate stage in the transformadon of animals and plants into 
men, so that when the Niart£akulla came down to eortli and fashioned 
the Inapfrtwa into men, each individual so fashioned naturally retained 
an intimate relationship with the animal, plant, or other object, of 
which lie was indirectly a transformation, and mth whidi he was at 
one time identical. It is in dtis way that men come into being, and 
it is for this reason that men necessarily possess totems, diai is an 
animal, plant, or other object or thing, such as water, wind, sun, fire, 
cloud, or whatnot, wdth w'hidt each individual is closely identified, 
since it is to that plant, animal, object, or thing that the native believes 


himself to owe his originaL creation* Spencer and Gillen wnx^ of 
the rehtionship between the tndjvidiial and hk totem: At the present 
day a very definite rebiionship k supposed to exist between the 
individual and hb totem. A man will eat only very sparingly of tiic 
latter, and even if he does eat a litde of it, wliich is allowable to him, 
he h careful, in the case, for example, of an emu man, not to eat the 
best part, such as the lat. The totem of any man is regarded, just as 
it is elsewhere, as the same tiling as himself; as a native once said 
to us when we were discussing the matter with him, *That one/ 
pointing to his photograph which we had taken," is just the same a$ 
me ; so is a kangaroo (his totem)/" ^ 

The Alchera ancestors of the Amnia possessed powers far exceeding 
those of their living descendants : it is they, for example, who created 
the various natural features of the land inhabited by the tribe Eo^y, 
the gorges, the rivers, the gaps, and so forth. 

Tlie Alchera ancestors were originally handed together in totemic 
companies who wandered over the land in various directions, as 
recorded in the traditions associated with them* Each ancestor carried 
w^itli him one or more sacred stones, whid\ were associated with the 
Kujima^ that is, die spirit pan of the tndividtia], and which are called 
by die Arunta Churinga, Wherever the ancestors originated, and 
w'herever they camped during dieir wanderings, there were formed 
Kfujmkilla^ Or local totem centres, At each of these spots—and they 
are all well known to the old men, who pass the knowledge on from 
generation to genemdon—a certain numbet of the Alchera ancestors 
went into the ground, each leaving his Churinga behind* His body 
died, but some natural feature, such as a rock or tree, arose 10 mark 
the spot while his spirit jjart remained in the Churinga* These 
Churinga, as well as others, which the wandering parties left behind 
them, were stored in Ptnakh^ra^ or sacred siorehouses, w^hicli usually 
took the form of small caves or fissures in the rock, or even a hollow 
tree or carefully concealed hole in a sandbank. The result is that as 
we follow' iheir wanderings, we find the whole country is dotted 
over wjtlj Knanikiliay or local totem centres, at each of which is 
deposiied a number of Churinga with Kuruna^ or spirit individuals, 
associated with them/' ® Each totem centre is, of course, associated 
with a particular species of totem. Thus, for example, in one lo^lity 
there wdll be wild-cat spirit individuals, in another a group of emu, 
then a group of kangaroos, and in another a group of hakea floww, 

* JjS* BiX * 


3 ^ 

md so on- Ar of the spots at uWoh a Churinga deposited 
tlie oarural object Txhkh arose to mark its sJte^ such as a tree or rock* 
became the abtxle of the which also m^s totem. It is this 

conception of spirit indi\iduals associated with Churinga and resident 
in certain definite spots, determined by die situation of the Knanja, 
tliat lies, according to Spencer and Gillen, a: die root of the Anmta 
totemic system* 

We may take the following as a typical example of how each 
man and woman gains a totem name. Close to Alice Springs, there 
is a large and important wiiclictty grub ^ totem centre or Knanikillai.‘ 
Here there were deposited in die Alchera a large number of Churinga 
carried by witiihetty grub men and women. There are numerous 
prominent rocks and boulders and certain ancient gum trees along the 
sides of a picturesque gap in the ranges that are the Kiumja trees and 
rocks of iliese spirits, which, so long as tliey remain in spirit form* 
they usually frequent. If a woman conceives a diild after having 
been near to dais gap, it is one of the spirit individuals which has 
entered her body,^ and therefore, quite irrespecrive of what the 
mother's or father's totem may chance to be* that child, when bom, 
must of necessity be of the witchetty grub totem; it is* in fact, nothing 
else but the reincarnation of one of the witchetty gmh people of the 
Alcheia* Suppose, for example, to take a particular and actual instance, 
an emu woman from another locality comes to Alice Springs, and 
whilst there becomes aware that die lias conceived a child, and then 
returns to her own locality before die child is bom, that child, though 
it may be bom in an emu locality, is an tJdnirringJta or witchetiy 
grub. It must be, the natives say, because it entered the moilier at 
Alice Springs, where there are ordy wdtehetty grub Kunmas- Had 
it enten^ her body within the limits of her own emu locctlity, it would 
as ineviiably have been an emu. To take another example. Quite 
recendy the laira or wife of a witchetty grub man—she l^longing to 
the same totem—conceived a child wliile on a visit to a neighbouring 
or water locality* which lies away to the east of Alice Springs 
—that child^s totem is water ; or again, an Alice Springs woman* when 
asked by us as to why her cltild was a witchetty grub (in diis instance 
belonging to die same totem as both of its panenis)* told us that one 

^ The wiEchetty gntb h ilje hm ot the b]g Cclssus modi, aii4 Abcuf lAlc of a 

middle Kkiger PLatc 1.) 

t ^ U d fUflx U»d td povidoa; 

ttiiij fifnaiA mcSBiM on a hiiL” pL aid C-) 

* The ci Kufin^ chIctt the Womai thrmiglLi the (S4 i md C.)' 

Plate 1 

VriLclicLLy Grubsr Tttc kirvA of l\w bsg^ Lkmol ^ioih 
(From Bascfkiw, 7^ AMstFufias ^-Uhor^psail) 

1/^Pff p. ii 


day she 'was taking a drink of water near to the gap in the Ranges 
where the spirits dwell when suddenly she heard a child's voice crying 
out, “jWfff, miaf ”—^the native term for relationship, which includes 
that of mother. Not being anxious to have a child, she ran away as fast 
as she could, but to no purpose 1 she was fat and well favoured, and 
such women the Kurmas prefer; one of them had gone inside her, 
and of course it 'was bom a witchetty gruh.^ 

“ The natives are quite clear upon this point. TTie spirit children 
are supposed to have a strong predilection for fat women, and prefer 
to clioose such ibr dieir mothers, even at the risk of being bom into 
the wrong class.” ® 

In support of the belief in this predilection of the spirit children 
for fat women the natives can point to the fact that the iat strong 
women are actually much more fertile than tlie thin weaker ones who 
are very frequently sterile, or rarely bear children.® The incapacity to 
produce children is generally explained by the natives as having 
been brought about by the woman in her youth, in consequence of 
her having playfully or thoughtlessly tied a man’s hair waist-band 
around her 'waist. The latter so used, if only for a moment or two, 
has the effect of cramping the girl's internal organs and rendering 
them incapable of the necessary expansion.* 

Another 'way in which a woman may be entered hy a spirit child 
is the following: ” If a man, for example, be hunting an emu and, 
whilst he is chasing it, it runs into a waiJaby KnanikUIa^ a 'waJlaby 
Kuruna may go into it. If the man spears it near to the KnanikUla 
and gives some of it to his wife to eat, the wallaby Kunma will go 
into her. She does not eat it, but, as is supposed always to be die 
case, it enters by her loins. Later on she l^omes si<^ and then 
know's that the Kuruna has given rise to a Ratappa inside lier, which, 
when bom, belongs to the wallaby Kmmja, It is definitely said that 
she does not actually eat the Kurunay * Ratappa is the term applied 
to the child within the mother’s womb, and is also used to describe 
a new-born baby. The spirit child, or Ajuruna, always enters the 
woman through the loins, never through the vulva. The Kuruna 
represents an earlier sn^ of development than the Ratappa, The 

* “ Kitrwuii ar* abo RippoMd ta Ik espnigUy fond of traveling in whidwindi; wd, on 

iccing one of theic^ ar? and aie Very fiecfUcfll mS ceraiii Uma m the 

eppMching her, x n-QUum will at odcc nm (S* C.3 

* EiicL, n. t, 

* IhifL 

‘ TbidL, 7®, 

34 the arunta 

Kunma is described ^ being of shapeless form^ having neiLher arms 
nor legs, nor head, and resembling a very small round UtUe pebble 
of a red colon n After entering a woman it develops into, or gives 
rise to, a Ratappc* It does not enter as a Ratappa but as a Kurima^ 
and it only changes into the former within die w'omb or iJpa?^ 

Although Spencer and Gillen nowhere explicitly say so, it would 
seem probable diat the Kuru/ui are regarded as actually representing 
that stage in the evolurion of men and women when the btier were 
all Ifiapertwa^ away back in the far distant AJcliera. Tiie description 
given by the natives of the physical form of the Inaperiwa corresponds 
exactly to that which they give of the physical form of the 
and since it is the spirit of Alchera origin which actually enters the 
w^oman, it enters in its original form and subsequently undergoes 
development as a Raiappa in the womb of the mother^ In this way 
the identificaiion of a man with hJs totem animal and his undoubted 
recognition of some physical difference in ilteir respective appearances 
would be accounted for^ 

So clear and unequivocal Is the native conception of the form of 
the Kuridiia and of the Ratappa that they will reject every phenomenon 
which may offer itself as such unless it fully agrees with their con¬ 
ception of it; thus, on the rare occasions when, owing to some 
accident, a child is bom at a very premature s^ge, nothing will 
persuade the natives that It is an undeveloped human being, for it is 
nothing like either a Kuruna or a Raiappa j ** they are perfectly 
convinced that it U the young of some other animal, such as a k^garoo, 
which has by mistake got Inside the womanJ* * 

We have, in this rejection of the premature fcetus by the natives, a 
striking instance of sometldng that many students have found it 
somewhat difhcuU to understand, namely, the denial of a relationship 
so apparently obvious as that which, in the present case, exists between 
the premature foetus and the child. But, as we have seen, according 
to native orthodox belief, which Is firmly based on what is believed 
to be the true history of die world of the Arunta, there Is room only 
for a Kuruim and a Raiapp^ in the complete embryological canon of 
the Arunta. It would, the^ore, not only be unorthodox, but perfectly 
pointless for the native to look upon the premature fcetus as anything 
more tlian the material form of an error on die part of the JCuruni^ 
of some animal, whidi mistakenly entered into the wrong host* 

^ Ibki, 

■ AnUf ji* 

DaieLf 3^, 


It is to be noted here that eveiy animal has z Kururmj and that the 
Kunma enters the female animal of the group with which it is associated 
in the same fashion as the Kurma enters the human female. ** An emu 
Kurtmay^ for examplej “ goes into an emuj who lays an egg containing 
the little emu Kurwuiy which is very small and annot at first be seen, 
hue it grows into an emu inside the shell and hatches out from this 
just like a little kangaroo or human baby grows Inside its motber^s 
ehuray or baby bag, and hatches out." ^ 

Still other ways in whkli a woman may be entered by a Kuruna 
are associated with the so-call©d iEam/p^-stoaes. These stones^ as 
their name implies, are the Kj^anjay or the abodes of die Kuruna of 
young children; actually diere are no Ratappa Knanja^ but the 
Kuruna inhabiting these Knanja enter women and give rise to Ratappa 
which become cluldren. These Ramppa-sion^^ of which there are 
but a few, are associated with detailed traditions reladng to their 
origin, which here, as elsewhere, are faidifully mirrored in die tribal 
ceremonies, and which, as shall see, naturally gjve them their 
meaning* Sudt a ceremony was in die keeping of an Inkata of Moe 
Springs, and was at lus request performed by a Panunga man, who 
enacted the part of a woman with a new-born child, the child being 
represented by an ovaJ mass of twigs and grass stalks encased in Iiair 
string and white down, upon which two black spots were left to 
indicate the eyes. Holding the supposed diild in his hands the 
performer sat down swaying and quivering, while die other men 
sang and danced around him. Tliis over, the child was ptessed agdnst 
die stomach of the InhitOy who then took and pressed k a^inst tliat 
of the old Puruia Inkata in charge of die Engw^ura^ totemlc ceremonies. 

The tradition associated with this ceremony is characteristic of the 
consistent detail upon which die native beliefs are based. Tlie tradition 
is as follows 1 “ In the locality of a plum-tree totem about 1 f miles 
east-soudi-east of Alice Spring is a spedal rounded stone which 
projects from die ground amidst mulga scrub for a heiglu of about 
3 feet. Tliis stone is called P^rta ratappa. In die Akhera a man 
named Iiuadrkaka, who^ was not an U^Ipmerkay^ came from a place 
called Kulb-rata, a w^terhole out to tiie north of Mount HengHn, 
in the Western Macdoiinells, and crossing a depression in the ktter 
range close to Mount Gillen, he proceeded to Uk-ang-wuUa, which 

* IM-, iv 

* Mune t ifHCUil teria of Eoiemic Ccicmoftk^ ihortly to he described 

* One vbo ii ruft uncircuiiKiBCfL 



means the hoUow or hole, and lies close to Quiumpa, where he found a 
Nurtun^a^ erected, but could not see any people to whom it belonged, so 
he proceeded to appropriate it' but when lie tried to pull it up out of 
die gfound, all that he could do was slightly to loosen it; seeing that 
he could not secure it whole he broke it off at the butt, and down it 
tumbled with a loud crash. The Nturtanja was the property of a 
plum-tree woman, named Unkara, who, with her new-bom baby boy 
{ratappa)^ was Out hunting for the plums on which they fed. She liad 
originate at this spot and had lived alone here, liaving nothing to do 
with the plum-tree Ulpmerka men who lived not far away. When 
she heard the crash she came quietly back to her camp, and there 
she saw what had taken place, and was greatly grieved j as the natives 
say, her bowels yearned after her Nurtimja. She put her baby boy 
into the hollow where the Nurtunja r^as broken off, Just below the 
surface, and leaving with turn a large number of Chuttnga, went in 
pursuit of the thief. Tlie boy went into the ground, and the Ratappa- 
Btone arose to mark the spoL (Plate IT,) Each of the Churinga which 
the Alchera woman left widi the boy had a Kmuna ot spirit belonging 
to it. The former were placed in die Pertakkera at Qulumpa rwaidja, 
a gap in the MacdoiuieU Ranges, now known as Pine Tree 

Increase ceremonies {Mhanhhtma or Intkhmma ceremonies) ate 
performed at the Knanja of the Amia^uerka (young child) which 
results in the departure of the Kuriaia^ whose Churinga are now in 
the Ptrtakhera at Quiumpa, to enter women. Under ordinary 
circumstances any woman who passes by such a Raiappa-^xont Is 
likely to be entered by an Ambaquirka Kurutia, Should a young 
woman wlio does not wish to have a child pass by the stone, she wiD 
disguise herself, and walk and limp like an old woman, w'hose voice 
she will imitate muttering," Don’t come to me, I am an old woman.” 
A malicious man may cause women to become pregnant by clearing 
a space round the stone and, while rubbing it, exclaiming, “ Plenty 
of young women, you look and go quickly.” A man who wishes 
to punidi his wife for supposed un^difi^ess performs the same 
ritual, whilst pronouncing the words ’’That woman of mine has 
thrown me aside, and gone with another man, go quickly and hang 
on dghdy ”—meaning that the child is to stay w ithin the woman 
for a long time, until by so doing it may cause her deatlt. Again, 

^ A »atd pole cooA«t«i with ■ laEctnic ouanony. 

* 1^,, 170-1. 

PLAT^ 11 

The Ratappa lUme, iKc hak Lhrough vrhkh the Kiajinma exner^ 

(From Spentef and Gillen^ T&f AimUi. GouftOfy of Maciiii3iao & C®.} 

t /ll£^ p. J* 


[he husband of ihe childless woiniiii by using a different formula at 
a Ratappa-^XOiie may cause a Kus’utut to enter hb wife.^ 

From tlie above account we see that every individual is regarded 
as the tneamadon of an Alcheia spirit or ancestor, and that as such the 
individual cannot possibly be generated by other living individuals, 
and that parentage must then be, necessarily, a purely social matter 
and not a biolo^cal one. 

When a Kunma enters a woman and a child is bom, the old men 
determine what particular Kururta has undergone incarnation, and 
tlien assign to the new-born individual the Clmringa the spirit part 
of which gave him being. This Churinga is always kept in tiie 
Pertaicherat necessarily of the regon in whidt die mother was cnteied 
by the KiiTuna. Tlie fact that the Qiuringa are kept in the PertakhertL, 
which literally means Alcheia rock, in explained by the fact tliat when 
a Kunma enters a woman it drops its Churinga, and dvis when found 
by the father, or father's father if living, at the place described by 
the mother, is then deposited in the Pertalckero, Sometimes, however, 
the Churinga is not found, in such an event a new one is made from 
mutga, or some Iiard-wood tree, near to the Pertakkera of the child, 
whi^ is then marked by the Anmga, or paternal grandfather of the 
child, with a design belon^ng to the child’s totem. When this has 
been done the Churinga is then placed in the Pertakhtra and is 
regarded as the child’s Churinga Aho/yc, with whicli its Kurtma is 
associated.* With each Churinga is also associated another spirit 
clement which Is the twin or double of the individual's own Kuruna^ 
thit; is the Antmhuringa which remains associated with the Churinga 
and spends a great deal of its time in and around the Pertakhera, 
The AramSuringa is conceived to be a kind of guardian spirit of the 
individual, but otdy in a very geneial way. The Arumburinga does not 
watdi over the individual continuously, and may, upon occasion, 
even be unfriendly towards liim, though generally an individual’s 
Arumburinga is considered to be a friendly Spirit. The Animborbiga 
is immortaJ, and the loss of the Churinga usually means diat the 
Arumburinga has follow'ed it.* In such a case the native does not 
mourn the loss very seriously, diougli he may have a vague idea that 
some ill may befall him. 

One tradition tells that the Churinga came to be placed in the 
Pertakhera for safe-keeping, another, that Numbakalk. originally 

^ [biiL, " IbieL* 106 . 

’ TJft Mntri'f g / CVtitm/ AtatfalLi^ jjS* 



fashioned large numbers of Churinga belonging to all Knanjas, or 
totems, with each of which he associated a Kunma wliich he iiad 
previously made. He then sent out fronts or Knanja groups with 
numbers of these Churinga and Kurwxas which each gave rise to men 
and women, their Churinga being deposited at certain spots, which 
subsequently became the Pertakheras of the various totem centres, 

Eacli inon and woman iia$ a Chtiringa himja and men, but not 
women, may possess others by Jnherttanoe. 

Wiien a person dies his Kurma-f now called lHihanct,, returns to its 
Churinga in the Pertalchtra. 

It remains but to say that whilst the totem is quite clearly not 
inherited in the sense of descent from parent to offspring, the totem 
of the child should, however, be that of its father’s moiety. The 
majority of the members of one totem belong to the same moiety 
of the tribe, although there are always a certain number of totemiies 
who belong to the opposite moiety. 

Occasionally a local loiemic group rruiy die out, in wliich event 
their Churinga will pass into the custody of a neighbouring group 
together with the land defined by the boundaries of the Pertakhin i 
the group into whose custody tJicse things pass must be Nohokla 
to the crunct group, tliat is, it must belong to the same moiety of the 
tribe as the latter. 

Such an extinction of a group is, however, always only temporary, 
for sooner or brer some woman is bound to be cniered by a spirit 
child in the locality of the group no longer represented by living 
individmls, for the spirits of the Alchera ancestors still inhabit the 
locality, and are always on the look-out for women through whom 
they may be reincarnated, and the group tn this way rsuscitaced. 

It h evident, therefore, diat every totemic group is in a very special 
sense a biologically determined unit, the material elements of which 
are represented by the Ktumja or abodes of the Alchera Kuruaa^ 
whicli by their presence ensure the continuity of the totemic group, 
and secondarily by means of the Giuringa with which the Alchera 
Kurma are associated. The Kmmja cum Churinga are, as it were, 
the material cellular elements of the germ-plasm of the totemic group, 
and as long as they exist, it ts impossible for the totemic group to 
become extinct. The biological continuity of the totemic group is thus 
as real a biological continuity as any social apparatus devised for the 
purpose could possibly secure. In reality, of couise, the continiuty 
is no more tlan socially determined, but this is as we see it and not as 


the native does, for him these things are in rerum natura, and are made 
clear to him by the nadiuons of his tribe and the everyday evcnrs of 
his social life, a life which embraces die complete totality of his 

As well as ensuring the continuity of the toiemic group itself, the 
cofirinuity of the species of the animal or plant with which the group 
b idend^d b likewise secured and maintained by die same powers 
that opemte in the case of man, except that in these connections the 
powers arc usuallymanipubtcd by the performance ofcertainceremonies. 
These ceremonies are performed at parttciilar seasons of the year, 
well-known lo the Inkaia and often announced to him through the 
medium of a dream as the most appropriate time a: which to secure 
the increase o( the totem animal or plant over whose increase ceremony 
he presides. Since times are the seasons of natural increase of 
these aniiTiais and pbnts, tile increase oeremomes are usually followed 
by the visible increase of the panicular toiemic animal or plant, and 
such an immediate response to the performance of these ceremonies 
does not fail to impress the narive as a very forceful demonstration, 
if such were needed, of the truths of his beliefs. 


Every member of the tribe must during the course of his Ufe pass 
through a certain number of ceremontes of initiation before he can 
be admitted to ftill membership within it. These ceremonies con- 
stituie, primarily, a re-enaction, for the benefit of the novice, of the 
complete history of the tribe as handed down in its traditional lore, 
and both in a psychological and a physical sense are calculated to 
make a man of him. The initiation oeremontes through which a 
girl must pass are brief, though they are impn^ive, being much 
less so, howev^er, than in the case of the youth, for whom they e?etend 
over a long period of time and for whom they are much more severe 
and trying* 

The initiation ceremonies commence when the boy is between 
ten and twelve years of age, before puberty, the final ceremony 
taking place when he is about twenty-five or thirty years of age* 
The ceremonies are four in number, as follows:—- 

(1) Painting and thro^'ing the boy up in the mr or jilkiraJawumix- 

(x) Circumdsion or Lartna. 

(3) Sxihbcision or Jrilia. 

(4) Tlie or fire ceremony. 




In the first ceremony tlie boy is taken to a centra] spot near the 
main camp where the men, and in this case, the women also, are 
assembled- The boy is tlien tossed in the air several limes by the men, 
whilst the women dance round the group singing and shouting. Any 
old man to whom the boy has not in the past paid the proper amount 
of attention may avail himself of die opportunity now afforded him 
of ph3fsically impressing upon the boy tlie necessity of conducting 
liimself as he should in the future. The boy is then painted with 
certain designs on chest and back by the proper relatives^ and wliilst 
being so decorated he is told that this will promote his growth to 
manhood, and he is also told by the tribal Others and elders that in 
the future he must not play with women and girls, and that he must 
henceforth go and live in the men's camp or U^ngu/^Of away from his 
family from whom he is henceforth separated. 

During diis ceremony his nasal septum is bored through, and 
thereafter he begins to wear the nosc^bone. Before this ceremony 
die boy is known as an Amhaquerht-f the term applied to a child of 
cither sex. After this ceremony, and before tliat of circumcision, lie 
is called JJlpmerkti, 


The ceremony of Larma or dreumdaion may take place at any 
time after puberty, and many years may elapse after die first ceremony 
before the second is enter^ upon. Preparations are usually made 
for this ceremony, all unknown to the boy, by his cider male relatives 
(usually his elder brothers) j these preparadons consist chiefly of 
the collection of a large amount of food material to be used during 
the period of the ceremonjes,, since these extend over several days and 
are attended by carroherees. 

At a pre-arranged time die boy is suddenly set upon and seized 
in the men*s camp by certain of his ckssihcatoiy broriiers, and carried 
off despite hi^ struggles to the ceremomaJ ground or Apulia^ which 
is situated at some distance from the camp and so placed that it 
cannot be seen by ihe women when in camp. Women are^ however, 
present during the early part of this ceremony, and the proceedings 
are opened by iheir enaction of an Alchera scene. 

During the proceedings which follow the hoy is told certain of the 
secrets of the tribe and warned on pain of deadi never to reveal 
them, or anydjing he witnesses during the ceremony, to anyone. 


Should do so» he and his relatives would surely die. He is then 
informed that he is no longer an Ulpmtrhiy but a Wurtja, 

Following a ceremony in which the Mura tuakha of the boy, 
that is, the woman whose eldest daughter, bom or unborn, 
been assigned to him as his future wife, hands him a fire-stick widi 
the injunction to hold fast always to his own fire, that is, not to inter¬ 
fere wirh other women, the iPkrcJa and his ceremonial guardians 
together wdih the women foUowed by a number of shouting boys 
then leave the ceremonial grounds and rctum to the main camp, 
where the w'omen and the boys must remain during the rest of the 

On the fourth day the JFur^a is brought out within a short distance 
of the ceremonial ground and placed b^nd a brake of shrubs, from 
which he may not move without the permission of his guardians. 
At midnight his eyes are bandaged and he is led back towards the 
ceremonial ground, where, his bandages removed, he witnesses the 
performance of certain totemic ceremonies in the meaning of which 
he is carefully instructed. 

On the fifth and sixtii day similar performances are given, and on 
the seventh day he is taken out hunting by his ceremonial guardians; 
the night being spent in the chanting of songs telling of tlie deeds 
of tlie Alchera ancestors, to which the Wuttja is required to listen 
anemively. On the following day a particularly significant totemic 
performance is given for his benefit which relates to a tradition, in 
which he is fully instructed, of the wanderings of the kangaroo in 
the Alchera. After this performance those who are to assist at the 
circumcision are selected in council. On the succeeding day a similar 
performance is gone througli in connection with, let us say, the rat 
totem, and during the next few days performances in connection with 
the other totems are given. 

During all this the fP'ur^a must not speak unless he is spoken to, 
he must pay careful anention to everything tliat ctccurs during the 
ceremonies, whilst the impressive experiences through which he 
passes under such unusual circumstances, and which are surrounded 
by such an aura of mystery, are allowed to sear themselves into his 
mind. He leams about the origins of the totems and the meaning 
of the ceremonies associated with them, and, finally, that he has now 
reached the spge preliminary to his full initiation into tile tribe. 

Following the performance of various other impressive ceremonies, 
the women return once more to the ceremonial ground, and the boy. 



concealed by the bodies of his ceremonial guardians^ runs the gauntlet 
with tliem duough the ranks of the women^ the ceremonial guardians 
the while pelting the women with pieces of bark carried for die purpose, 
a final volley being the signal for their hasty departure to their own 
camp, their pace accelerated by the vehement shouting of the men. 

This ceremony is intended to represent a stage m the dissociadon 
of the fTurga from the influence of the women. Following the 
performance of certain other ceremonies, the women again return 
to the ceremonial ground, and those who stand in the relation of 
mother's mother to the novice assist in die performance of a specud 
ceremony, following which they return to their own camp where they 
must hereafter remain. Immediately the ceremonial ground is filled 
wdth the sound of bull-roarers, and so loud is the noise made by these 
diat they can easily be heard by the women and children in camp, 
who believe that the roaring is die voice of Twanyirrika^ the spirit 
who enters the body of the novice after the operation of cir¬ 
cumcision and takes him away until he is recovered. 

At a certain signal the novice is laid upon his back, die assistant 
of the operator grasps the foreskin and pulls h out as far as possible, 
whereupon the operator with a quick movement severs tt udih a 
small stone knife. The blood from the wound Is allowed to daw Into 
a shield, and, in a da^d condition the f^urtja is taken back to his 
brake where he receives the congratulations of the men, who inform 
him that he is now a proper man. While he is still bleeding his 
ceremonial guardians bring up the bull-roarers, and pressing them 
against the wound, inform him that it was these and not Twanyirriha 
which made the sound he had heard, that these are sacred Churinga 
which must never be shown to or talked about to the women and 
children. Meanwhile the youth stands over a dampened fire the smoke 
of which is supposed to be efBcaceous in healing the wound. After 
the ceremony he is now an Afakufta. Soon, other recently initiated 
Arakurta are brought on to the ceremonial ground, and the backs 
of all of them are scraped with a Churinga. Finally the Arakurta 
is taken to the camp of the other Arakurta escorted by his ceremonial 
guardians, where he remains until his wound has healed and he is 
ready for the ceremony of Arilta or sublndsion. 


The Arilta ceremony takes place shortly after the recovery of the 
youth from the effects of tlie first operation. At this ceremony no 


women may be present- Here, too, ceremonial performances are 
given relating to the totems and their Alchera origins, and these 
are prolonged far into die night. Upon a certain day before dawn 
everything is ready; the no\'ice is not told what is about to happen 
to him. ^Ticn lie arrives at the ceremonial ground he is told to lie 
down dat upon a living table formed by two inidated men; as soon 
as he is in position anodier man sits down astride his body and grasping 
the Arakurtas penis puts it on the stretch, the operator dien quickly 
approaches, and with a stone knife bys open the penile portion of the 
uredua. This operation over, the Arahtrta is now regarded as having 
passed to the stage of an Atua-kurka^ or inidated man. 

The blood from the wound ts allowed to flow into a shield, which 
is then emptied into a fite which has previously been prepared for 
the purpose. If the wound be painful die initiate puts some glowing 
pieces of cliarcoal into the ashes and then urinates upon them, mean¬ 
while holding his penis above the glowing embers, die steam thus 
arising from the fire is said to ease the pain. Until the wound is healed 
the Atua-kurha must He upon bis back, otherwise it is believed his 
penis will grow crooked. 

It often happens that at tlie conclusion of the Arilta operation, 
other initiated men who are present and who have tlierefore already 
been operated upon on some previous occasion, will voluntarily 
offer to undergo a second or third operation. In such cases the old 
incision is enlarged. 

When certain other ceremonies have been performed and the 
Atua-kurka is completely recovered, he, together with the other men 
who were present at the ceremonies, assemble at some little distance 
from the main camp and begin to sing loudly. The women, hearing 
the singing, approach and begin to dance as they did at the ceremonial 
ground. The men discontinue singing as soon as they are near to 
the women, shouting “ Ihra, tirra, ftfru," a sound which resembles 
that made by the whirling bull-roarers, and which is immediately 
taken up by the women. The now undecorated Atua-hirka emerges 
from the midst of the assembled men, and running up close to the 
women, who continue dandng, suddenly turns upon his heel and 
runs away into the bush where he is followed by a number of men 
w'ho spend the night together with him singing all the while until 
daybre^. Shortly before it is light die Atjm-kitrka h accoutred by his 
ceremonial guardians in the ftill regalia of a member of the tribe and 
provided ^'ith a shield and spear-thrower. Around daybreak he sets 

44 the ARUNTA 

out, in the centre of a group of ruen led by the individual who removed 
his decorations at the conclusion of the Arilta ceremony, while all 
again shout “ Tirra^ tirtu^ ^Tien v^ithin about JO yards of 

tlie women, the Aiua^kurka proceeds alone, hiding hh face behind 
his shield, up to the women, when one or two of hh immediate 
family and tribal sisters throw their wooden bowls or pi^cAis 
at hit shield, and pressing their liands upon his shoulders, and 
rubbing their feces against his back, tl;ey cut off some locks of liis 
hair, which they keep to make up afterwards into ornaments for 

After this ceremony the j 4 :ua-ki£fka Is free to go into the presence 
of the various elders who pariidpated in the ceremonies, though 
he must not speak to them until several months have elapsed, nor 
must he speak loudly in their presence* 

" At daylight on the morning of the next day the men provide them¬ 
selves widi firc-sticks and, surrounding the young man, conduct 
him to the women, who are again waiting to receive him- He is fully 
decorated, and carries a shield and boomerang and some twigs of 
Eremophila. When the party is within a short distance of the women 
the men throw dowm their fire-sticks and halt, and the young man 
steps out from the centre of the group and throws his boomerang 
high up in the direction of the spot at wliich Ills mother was supposed 
to have lived in the Alcheia- This throwing of the boomerang in the 
direction of the mother^s Alchera camp—that is, of course, die spot 
at which the Alchera individual of whom his mother is supposed to 
be the reincarnation lived—occurs during the perforrnarice of other 
ceremonies, such, for example, as those which accompany the knocking 
out of the teeth in eastern groups of the Arunta and also in die llpirra 
tribe- It seems to indicate the existence in the Alcheia, the far past 
times, of some special relationship betVi^een a man and his mother* 
Nowadays it may perhaps be regarded pardy as intended to syraboli-te 
the idea that the young man it entering upon manhood, and dms is 
passing out of the control of the women and into the ranks of the 
men. Tlie feet that he is using the boomerang is indicative of this, 
and his throwing it towards his mothers camp is an inritmrion to her 
of the feet that he is passing away from her control/' ^ 

After this ceremony die Initiate must seat himself upon a fire upon 
which he is pressed down by the women who have made it* This 
ordeal over, he returns to camp, where he is forced to keep silence 

1 tbiiL, 113. 


for three days, following whidi he becomes a fully initiated member 
of the tribe, though it is not until he has passed through the Engwofa 
ceremonies that he becomes an UrKsra^ or a fully developed man. 

The Engwtira Ceremoay. 

The Engwura is characterized by a long series of ceremonies each 
of which is occupied with the performance of ceremonies re-enacting 
the history of die totems of die tribe, and terminating with ordeals 
by fire which form the last of the initiatory ceremonies. The 
p^ormance of the various totemic ceremotucs need not here be 
described, a very full account of them occupying 130 pages will be 
found in The Arunta by Spencer and Gillen.^ At die majority of these 
performances the young men who are to undergo the final processes 
of their inidation are present, but from the presence of a certain 
number of tliese ceremonies they are driven by the elders bto the bush, 
where it is their duty to obtain supplies of food for the sole con¬ 
sumption of the elders. Throughout the whole period, during which 
the ceremonies are taking place, and tltose observed by Spencer and 
Gillen lasted from the be^nning of September well into jEtnuary, 
the ilportgworra^ as the young men are coUecdvely called, after having 
taken part in a certain ceremony, are under the strict care of a delegated 
elder, who sees to it that they obtain as little to eat as possible, and 
that tliey are none too comfortable. When out hundng for the benefit 
of the elders the Ilpoftgworra are supposed to abstain from eating 
any of tire game they secure, but must bring it all back to the elders 
who may, or may nor, give them a small share of it. 

On three separate occasions on three separate days it is the duty 
of the wometi to assault die Ilpongworra widi ftre-sdcks which they 
throw at the young men's heads as the latter pass by the women’s 
camp. Tlie Ilpongworra defend themselves against injury as best 
they can with their sliields, but not infrequently one of the Ilpongworra 
is very severely scorched as a result of the experience. It is of interest 
here to note that during this procedure the women make certain 
unmistakable beckoning motions to the men, which they, of course, 
must disregard, Returning to the camp, after the final fire throwing 
ceremony of the women, and following a number of odicr exhausting 
ceremonies, which need not he detailed here, with the exception of the 
mention of one in which the Ilpongwomt with lighted lire^dcks rush 
towards the women and children who are assembled outside for the 

46 the ARUNTA 

purpose and hurl their fire-sticks over the heads of the women, they^ 
in a body, return to the Engwura ground, from which they are not 
allowed to move upon any pretext whatsoever^ After lying silent 
all night the Ilpangworra are sent away into the bush for two days, 
during which preparafions are made lor their ordeal by fire* 

A secluded spot amongst the ranges some a miles away from 
Alice Springs was selected, and^liere, while the young men rested 
by die side of a water-hole in the bed of the Todd, the Urliant, who 
were in charge of tliem, went to the chosen spot and made a large 
fire of logs and branches about 3 yards in diameter* Tlien the 
young men, of whom forty were present, were called up, and putting 
green bushes on die fire, they were made to lie down full length upon 
the smoking boughs, which prevented diem from coming into contact 
witli the red-hot embers beneath. The heat and smoke were stifling, 
but none of them were allowed to get up until they received the 
permission of the UtUara. After they had all been on once, each one 
remaining about four to five minutes on the fire, the old men came to 
the conclusion that they must repeat the process, and so, making up 
the fire again, they were once more put on in the midst of dense 
clouds of smoke, one of the older men lifting up the green boughs 
ai one side with a long pole so as to allow of the access of air and 
ensure the smouldering of the leaves and green wood* There was 
no doubt as to the trying nature of die ordeal, as, apart from the smoke, 
the heat was so great that, after kneeling down on it to see what 
it w'as like, we got up as tjuickly as possible, and of course the natives 
had no protection in the way of dodies.” ^ 

Finally, after a ceremony in which the lipangworra kneel down 
for some seconds in fires prepared by the women, who again beckon 
to them with various unmistakable sexual motions, and the removal 
of the ban of silence from them, the Jlpongworra are admitted to full 
manhood and standing in tlie tribe, and are hereafter regarded as 
fully initiated Urlisra. 

There ceremonies are, of course, of great interest in themselves, 
for they are manifesdy a celebration and ritualistic enaction of the 
phylogenetic history of the tribe as represented to-day chiefly in its 
totemic organLstariems and the traditions assodated with them, their 
edehrarion bdng calculated to keep impr^ively fresh and ahve 
the social and ‘ biologicaP foundations upon which it draws for its 
support. We have briefly seen how gradually and impressively the 

^ XhkL, 1 .^ 4 ^ 


individua] is initiated into the secrets of liis society and into a know¬ 
ledge of the manner in which it came into existence, as well as the nature 
of the means by which that existence is ensured both for the present 
and the future. We have seen how the individual is gradually 1 ft] from 
childhood to full raanliood, step by step through the history of the 
tribe, how, in his social ontogenetic development he repeats, in a 
crude n'ay, the phylogenetic history of the tribe, and learns to esteem 
and respect the elders, who, by their conduct of the ceremonies and 
their regulation of the totemic performances, and their conveyance 
of the traditions associated widi these, have impressed upon Iiira 
their true worth and signyicance, upon which he could not have 
put quite the proper valuation before his tnidadon. 

The majority of these ceremonies, the nature ot which has been 
briefly indicated, are genemlly each associated with the most detailed 
traditions which eflectively serve to give them their meaning. 
Practices, however, such as circumcision and suhincision seem to 
be conspicuously lacking in any traditions which would seiv^e to 
explain theii meaning to rite natives. Circumcision and sublndsion 
were, according to tradition, introduced in the Alchera, tlie first by 
NunthahdUa, who used a fire-stick for the operation/ and the second 
by the Achilpa or Alchcra ancestors of the men of the wild-cat totem 
—for what, if any reason, no one knows; to a query concerning the 
matter the native will invariably reply that these rites were practised 
in the Aldieia and must therefore be so practised to-day. In other 
parts of Australia there are, however, definite traditions which purport 
to give these rites a meaning, and these traditions, which we shall 
later have occasion to refer to, though quite clearly rational lotions, 
may none the less be quite as good explanations of the significance of 
the practices as any other that could be offered, though this is to be 
strongly doubted. The fact that these practices exist does not, of 
course, necessarily imply that they ever had a meaning among the 
Arunta, for they may have been taken over from some other tribe 
for any number of different reasons, but whatever the origin of these 
practices may have been, however irrational the reasons for their 
adoption, they must, at any rate, have given rise to some sort of 
philosophy which would pve them a cong;ruency with such beliefs 
and practices as already formed part of the existing background of 

^ Tb? 14 useii fpr tbis opcfadan by the tribe of the Coops 

Ci%tk dlcitrict of the Lake Eyre ttgbru S« H wd Kimired Rites 

of ihe Austnlun Abori^uiiL" fJLAJ.f Lviij i 



native philoscrphy. The discussion of this matter may^ however, 
prohtably be deferred until a later chapter. 

The foregoing much compressed account of Arunta culture must, 
for the present, do service as a general background against which the 
procreative beUefe of the numerous other tribes inhabiting Australia, 
as well as of the Arunta themselves, may be seen. It has already been 
pointed out that no great violence will be done to die facts should we 
thus perceive these beliefs against the background of Arunta cultui^, 
for although these beliefs unquestionably vary in details from tribe 
to tribe and even from horde to horde, they are on the whole so 
strikingly similar in nature as to render such a procedure much less 
ohjectionablc than would conceivably be possible in any other case. 

Our real purpose, however, is to avoid committing so egregious 
an error of method as the study of the procreative beliefs of these other 
tribes as if they were functions of Arunta culture, but rather to 
endeavour to discover what the Australians really believe about 
procreadon wherever tn Australia their bebefs in connection with 
this subject have been reported upon, and to utilize the forms which 
this belief assumes in our study of the similar conditions in tebitoti 
to, and within the framework of, the culture of the Arunta. 

Chapter III 


Notldng that 15 shall perish uderiy* 

But perish only to levive again 
In other forms + * h" 


In the present chapter the relevant evidence relating to the pro¬ 
creative beliefs of the tribes of Central Australia is presented and 
discussed in some detail. 

In this place it is desirable to point out that before the publication 
of Spencer and Gillen's account of die Arunta theory of conception 
in 1899, in spite of an earlier considerable literature of a rather 
desultory kind on the natives of Australia, with the exception of such 
general assumptions as were made by Hanland, there had previously 
existed no suspicion of the facts as they were made known to the world 
by these investigators. The scientific Itteiatuie dealing with the 
Australian was almost entirely confined to short accounts, published 
in various periodicals, of certain aspects of the social organization 
of the tribes reported upon. Tlie interesting and in many ways 
invaluable compilations of contemporary knowledge relating to the 
Australian aborigines, such as the works edited by R. Brough Smyth,^ 
G. Taplin,* j. D. Woods,® and E. M. Curr,** assembled mainly by 
means of the questionnaire method from missionaries, police troopers, 
and similar sources, represented almost the sole attempts to record 
in some sort of systematic way something of the manners and customs, 
the folklore and linguistics, of the aboriginai tribes. But in almost 
all instances, such was the delicacy of the feelings of the corre¬ 
spondents of the editors that rarely were they able to permit them¬ 
selves to make more than the briefest reference to those customs and 
beliefs which it was their habit to dismiss with some such callginous 
epithet as " disgusting ", or bestial Characteristic in tliis respect 
is the great work of an investigator who belonged to this period, 

^ 1 Vida.»Lcmdcn MielbouTW, 1^7^ 

' Tit Mofttwrt, ef rht SositJi Auftralsvi Askiiiilz ^ 


* TAm Naihi TfUfserfS^uisA Adc^idCf l&Tjr 

* n* /ioct, 4 voll., Mdlbaume ind Landed iSS4 


namely, A. W. Howitt, in Ti'hose numerous wttHngs on the native 
tribes of South-East Austzalia, and in his monogiaplt by that title,^ 
which was not published until 1904 and represented the fruits of 
forty years of labour amongst these tribes, there ts not to be found a 
single reference to the sexual life of the natives, and but two or 
three of the most cursory references to die native procreative belief. 
Thus it is that in every sense of the word Spencer and Gillen’s 
account of the Arunta represents the first and pioneering work of 
Australian etlinology; and, indeed, though it is by no means free 
of serious faults, St will always remain one of the best accounts of a 
primitive people available to the student of human culture and society. 

In an account of the Anmta preceding the appearance of tliat by 
Spencer and Gillen by some eight years, and which actually includes 
the first account, brief and incomplete though It is, of the conceptional 
beliefs of the Arunta who live towards the south-east of Spencer and 
Gillen’s hordes on the Finke River, the Rev. L. Schulze, a missionary 
attached to the Mission at Hermannsburg, gives the following 
description of the nadvc conceptional beliefs:— 

“ Tliese natives believe that the souls of the infants dwell in the 
foliage of the tre«, and that they are carried there by the good moun¬ 
tain spirits, ttiaaJiroAiiy and their wives, meiSaia. Tlie nearest tree 
to a woman when she feels the first pain of partuririort she calls 
ngirroy as they are under the impression that the gunmany or sou], 
has then entered from it into the child. Such a tree is left untouched, 
as they believe that whoever should happen to break off even a single 
branch would become sick. But if the tree should be injured or broken 
down by winds or fioods that person would get ill whose ngirm 
the tree was,” * 

Tliis account, as fiir as it goes, is in essential agreement with iJiat 
given eight years later by Spencer and Gillen, something of which 
we have already become acquainted with in the last chapter. It will 
perhaps be recalled that we encountered the taaajiraka as Twonywiiks 
during the ctrcumcision ceremonies, though there was no occasion 
to hear of their wives, the fnel&ata* I/girm is obviously the equivalent 
of JOumJa, and the gurunna is clearly the Kunt/ui of Spencer and Gillen. 

Obviously, Sdiulze’s is a very limited account of the native con¬ 
ceptional beliefs. Tlic points to be noticed here are three. First, that 

* 7 ^* Natjvg Tri^ ej'AutiraHa, 

* *“ The AlKari^uicA the tijSipcr imd Mnike Riivtri" Tram. snJ P/60 Sx^ 


the abode of the souls or spirits of infants is limited to the foliage 
of uees; second, that the mountain spirits tuaajiraht and their wives, 
meBata^ carry them to their abodes in the foliage of the trees ; and, 
third, dial the soul is said to enter a pre-existing child already within 
the mother. 

The hrst point, the restriction of the abodes of spirit children to 
the foll^e of trees, may, 1 diink, most plausibly be attributed to 
Schulze’s limited information, tf what Spencer and Gillen write is 
also true for this soudicm group of the Amnta. Tlie second point, 
namely, that die souls of the infants are placed in the foliage of trees 
by die mimjiraiia and dieir wives, actually throws some light upon 
a matter wliich, as reported by Spencer and Gillen, is not very clear 
and will be discussed in some detail in die succeeding report, namely 
why it is that the CAuriaga TWanyiVi^fl, wliich is made by die paternal 
grandfather of the newborn child from some wood taken from a tree 
close to the Pertakheray has no Kunma associated with Among 
the Amnta diere is a definite tradition with respect to the origin of the 
Churinga which has it that an Alchera InkatOy deputed by a superior 
Inkata acting upon the command of NumtahtUay arranged for the 
birth of children by placing Kiimna —always in pairs — ^in many of the 
mulga trees. These trees are, according to Spencer and Gillen, called 
Tidja? According tO this tradition die lesser Alchera Inkata (Jnkata 
kupitcha) dien said to the OhurrakatOy the wise old man, " 1 , , , have 
put Kutynasy or sptrtts in the mulga trees. You take a log of mulga 
wood and split it. The Kuruna are everywhere in die trees j make the 
Churinga for them smooth and good and cut the Ilkhia ^ on them with 
an opossum tooth. Make the IrtduBa-ifrakura^ 

“ In the early days the old Okrtirraiatas often made these Tidjanira, 
The old men are supposed to have known, or at least to have been 
able to recognize, the particular mulga trees in which the Inkata had 
left the Kurunas. Tlie Ohurrahata would seen an Iwupa or Kuruna 
(both of diese are names applied to spirits), in, perhaps, a specially 
large mulga-tree. It would disappear, but the man then knew that the 
tree was a Tidja akheray in which die Inkata had placed a Kurtma, 
He then cuts a log (^taga) from die tree and splits it into tw'O (caga 
cAiepa kuma ura) ; out of cadi half he fashions a Churinga itdjamray 
and thus makes a pair of mates, impara ningay ornamenting each with 
the Ilkiniay or mark of the totem. The two Kimina mates, one attia ® 

^ 1*7- * TbUL, 3.7a, 

Ihid. The origiitaJ AJiihm Churi£iga,r 

* J7ij tattm 

* Atti^y DLlUl- 


and one arraguijcLf^ associate themselves whhj and enter into the 
TTtfamVc, ’which are then placed in the Pertakkef^n- These Churinga, 
made in the Alcliem and even in later times by great Ohdrraiatasy 
though of cottrse wooden, rank as CAurhiga mJuIla-trrahiraf along 
witlj those carried about by the original Inkaias. The old men are 
able 10 distinguish between the Churinga associated with the ama 
(man) and that with the arr^^tja (’woman) Kurami**^ - 
NoWj it seems likely that the TiJjamfa of Spencer and Gillen is 
but anotlier version of the same tiling called by Schulze ngirra^ that 
iSj die abode of the soul or spirit. TiJjamm is the name given to a 
Churing^ made out of the wood of the Tulja or mulga tree, and 
wc have seen how and for what r^on some of the original Alchera 
Churinga, the CAurmga inJuUa-irrahira^ were made in this way, and 
afterwards placed in the P^naicAera. Schulze^s report is dearly 
either a garbled record of tlvk tradition or the report of actual condi¬ 
tions which still follow die Aldiera pattern. In cidier evient, it is of 
interest to note that two Alchera ancestral men called Twanyirrihi 
were created out of the first TUJamm by the first great Inkata created 
by Numbatulb^ the Inkata ai^rraP The Koruna associated with 
their Talkara (stone Churinga) and JUjamra sdll give rise to men 
who are called Twatytrrtka^ but this is only a namc-'^ The CAuringa 
Twmyirrika which is made by the paternal grandfather of the child 
is a secondary Churinga and is never used as were die Tu^anyifrUa 
Churinga referred to in the above tradition, which IS pari of the Achilpa 
tradluon with w'hich wt shall shortly deal.® Neverdieless, the origin 
and meaning of these secondary Qiuringa seems dear, and in the 
light of Schulze's statements provides us widi a clue to the actual 
origin of the Churin^. For according to the tradition of which we 
have just read, the Kuruna entered the woman direedy from the tree, 
and it was front this tree tliat the original Tiiija/dra Churinga were 
made, and then pbced in the Pertol^era with wliidi their Kurttna 
are now associated. As Schulzs^ points out, should anything happen 
to the tree, die individual whose ngirra it is would fall ill. In thb we 
have w'hat may possibly be the explanation of the origin of the 
Churinga. For if trees and rocks—stock and stone—were the 
original abodes of the spirits, then a portion of such a tree or rock 
would represent the immanent token of the individual's relationship 
to that rock or tree, the original seat of his spirit parr to which, upon 

« Hik!., icr?. 

■ IhaLi 171 . 

> ih^ 

* Ibid,^ jfij r 


his bodily death, it will return. The Knanja or ti^rra tree or rock is 
actually the original source of all die Churinga, each Cburtnga repre¬ 
senting the complete spirit part of one Aldiera ancestor whose abode 
that Knoitja or flgiVra originally was. The reason why the secondary 
Churinga Twanyirrika have no K/uruna associated with them is 
because the latter are already associated with the particular Churii^a 
Indullarirrakura of the Alcheta. 

With respect to the third point, that the gurtirtna enters the child 
when the woman feels the first pangs of pajttiridon, there can be no 
doubt that as worded this statement implies diat the child is already 
in existence before die soul enters it. The statement that the “ natives 
believe that the souls of the infants dwell in the foliage of the trees " 
would support this interpretation of the phrase ; in any case, Schulze 
writes “souls of the irtiants'’ not “infant souls", nor yet “soul 
children" or “spirit-children”. This statement then would imply 
that the spiritual and corporeal parts of the individual are at least of 
separate, if not of different, origin, that it is only an AJclieia spirit or 
the spirit part of an individual ancestor which undergoes incarnation, 
and that Ae corporeal part of the individual In whom it is incarnated 
is of separate origin. Tins is, of course, a fundamental matter, but 
until we have considered the further independent evidence it Wfill 
be of no advantage to pursue the matter any further here. We may 
therefore defer the discussion of this matter until the whole of the 
evidence has been surveyed. 

Tlie account of the Arunta procreative beliefs and the relevant 
observations concerning them which follows lieie is derived chielly 
from Spencer's revision of the work originally written by him in 
collaboration with F. J, Gillen and published in 1899,^ and in its 
revised form published in 19x7 under the title of Tht Arunta, This 
version has, after careful consideration, been selected in preference to 
that of the 1899 text, since it is in all essentials the same as the former 
except that much new and important material has been added, and 
where them has been any change in the text it has generally been in 
the interest of greater clarity. It is necessary here to make clear that 
the revision was made following a second study of the Arunta, some 
thirty years after the first, by Spencer, during which he paid panicular 
attention to certain matters, liis own report of which had b«i> 
challenged from time to time, one such matter being the alleged native 
nescience of the real nature of the procreative process. In this 



connection Spencer writes that “There can be no doubt ^ !0 the 
general correctness and wide distribution of the native theory of 
conception as originally described by This statement applies 

specifically to such Central Australian tribes as the Arunta^ Urabunna, 
Luritja^ Ilplna, Walpari, Kaidsha, Worgjaia, and Warramunga^ 

We have already seen how closely the totemic organizaiion and the 
ceremonies associated with it are bound up with the whole past history 
of the tribe, and we have also seen how inseparably woven into the 
f^ric of this organization are the procteative beliefs of the natives. 

*' The whole past history of the tribe may be said to be bound up 
with these lotemic ceremoniesj each of which is concerned with die 
doings of certain mythical ancestors who ate supposed to have lived 
in die dim past, to which the nadves give the name of Alchera \ 

“In the Alchera lived ancestors who, in the native mind, are so 
indmately associated with die animals or plants die name of which 
they bear that an Alchera man of, sy, the kangaroo lotem may some¬ 
times be spoken of either as a man-kangaroo or as a kangaroo-man. 
The identity of the human individual is often sunk in that of the 
animal or plant f^m which he is supposed to have originated. It is 
useless to try to get farther back than the Alchera; the history of 
the tribe as kno^n to the natives commences dien. 

“ Going back to this far-away time, w^e find ourselves in the midst 
of semi-htiman creatures endowed with powers not possessed fay 
their living descendants and inbabidng the same country which is 
now inhabited by the tribe, but which was dien devoid of many of 
its most marked faitures, the origin of wliich^ such as the gaps and 
gorges in die Macdonnell Ranges, is attributed to these mythical 
Alchera ancestors. 

“ These Aidiera men and women are represented in tradition as 
collected together m companies, each of wbich consisted of a certain 
number of individuals belonging to one particular totem.” - 

" Each of these Alche^ ancestors is reprt^nted as carrying about 
with him, or her, one or more of the sacred stones, which are called 
by the Arunta natives Churinga, and each of these Churinga is 
intimately associated w^ith the Kururta or spirit pari of some individual. 
Either where they originated and stayed, as in the case of certain of the 
wicchetty gruh people, or else where, during their wanderings, they 
camped for a dme, there were formed what the narives call JCnani- 
kiUa^ each one of which is in r^ity a local totem centre. At each of 
^ UiicLp * Uiid., 7^-3. 


these spots—and they arc all well known 10 the old men, who pass 
the knowledge on from generation to gcneiation'—a certain number 
of Alchcra ancestors went into the ground, each leaving his Churinga 
behind. His body died, but some natural feature, such as a rock or tree, 
arose to mark the spot, while his spirit part remained in the Churinga, 
These Churinga, as well as others that the wandering parties left 
behind them, were stored in Pertalcktra^ or sacred storehouses, that 
usually had the form of small caves and fissures in the rocks, or even 
3 hollow tree or a carefully concealed hole in a sand-bank. The result 
is that, as we follow their wanderings, we find the whole country is 
dotted over wth KmtfuJdlla^ or local totem centres, at each of which 
are deposited a number of Churinga, with Kurunaf or spirit individuals, 
associated with them. Each KnanikiUa is, of course, connected with 
one totem.,,, 

" As we have said, the exact spot at which a Churinga was deposited 
was alwa3fs marked by some natural object, such as a tree or rock, and 
in this the spirit is supposed to take up its abode, and it is called the 
spirit’s Knsnja.^ 

" We may take the following as a typical example of how each 
man and woman gains a totem name. Close to Alice Springs is a large 
and important witchetty grub totem centre or Knanikilia. Here there 
were deposited in the Alchera a laige number of Churinga carried by 
witchetty grub men and women. There ate numerous prominent 
rocks and boulders and o^rtain ancient gum trees along the ^des 
of a picturesque gap in the ranges, that are the Kiumja trees and rocks 
of these spirits, which, so long as they remain in spirit form, they 
usually frequent. If a woman conceives a child after having been 
near to this gap, it b one of these spirits individuaU which has entered 
her body,* and therefore, quite irrespective of what the mother’s or 
Other’s totem may chance to be, that child, wlien bom, must of 
necessity be of the witchetty grub totem; it is, in fact, nothing else 
but the reincarnation of one of the witchetty grub people of the 
Alchera, Suppose, for example, to take a panicular and actual 
instance, an emu woman from another locality comes to Alice Springs, 
and whilst there becomes aware that she has conceived a child, and 
then returns to her own locality before the diild is bom, that child, 
though it may be bom; tn an emu locality, b an Udnirringita or 

* Accoftfing to Rn kwt nj the litcnl of lhi& WOltl» or'i^ a. " The 

PsydlO-dEiaj^^s of PHiiuiwe' CuloinJ Types," Jeurr^ ejT xiii, 

* "Tlic spins of Kuruna always cnim the woman ihrcjugh ^ loutv" onJ GO 

56 procreative bei^iefs 

witchet^ grub. It musi be^ the natives say^ because it cnterKl the 
mother at Alice Springs, where there are only witchetiy grub Kurmtas. 
Had it entered her body within the limits of her own emu locality, 
it would as inesitably have been an emu. To take another example. 
Quite recently the iuire or wife of a witchetty grub man, she belonging 
to the same totem, conceived a child while on a visit to a neighbouring 
QuatcAa or water locality, which lies away to the east of Alice Springs 
— that child's totem is water; or, again, an Alice Springs woman, 
when asked by us as to why her child was a wiichetty grub (in this 
instance belonging to the same totem as both of its parents^, told us 
that one day she was taking a drink of water near to the gap in the 
Ranges where the spirits dwell when suddenly she heard a child's 
voice crying out, ‘ Mk, Mia !’—tlie native term for relationship, 
which includes that of mother. Not being anxious to liave a child, 
she ran attray as fast as she could, but to no purpose j she was fat and 
well favour^, and such women the Kurunas prefer; one of them had 
gone inside her, and of course it was horn a witchetty grub,^ 

“ The natives arc quite clear upon this point. The spirit children 
are supposed to have a strong predilection for fat women, and prefer 
to choose such for tlieir mothers, even at the risk of being bom into 
the wrong class... . 

“ There is a curious belief in regard to one method of conception. 
If a man, for example, be hunting an emu and, whilst he is chasing it, 
it runs near to a wallaby KnanUjiiaf a wallaby Kuruna may go into It. 
If tlie man spears it near to the /GtOTukilla and gives some of it to his 
wife to eat, the wallaby JCuruna will go into her. She does not ot it, 
but, as is supposed always to be the case, it enters by her loins. Later 
on she becomes sick, and tlien knows that the Kuruoa has given rise 
10 a Ratappa inside her, which, when bom, belongs to the wallaby 
Knanja. It is definitely said that she does not actually eat the Aifritpw."- 

“ The members of each totem claim 10 have the power of increasing 
the number of the animal or plant, and in this respect the tiadition 
connected widi Undiara, the great centre of the kangaroo totem, just 
as the Emily Gap is the great centre of the witchetty grub totem, is of 
especial interest. In the Alchera, as we have already described, a 
special kangaroo was killed by kangaroo men and its body brought to 
Undiara and deposited in the cave close by the waterhole. The rock 

' “Kuruna wppOied »csptcially fond df tnvdiilsg in nrhiHwiti^ aid| m 

i«eing one of iheic, vlikh nc ^Icd UribwabA and an VHy freqUWlI « «cnaia tuM of W 
yev, Aparoadiif^ hcTi ■ wnsiun wil] b1 {rkc lUft ^ aiad G.) 

* Jbiip 


ledge arose to mark the spot, and into this entered its spirit part and 
also the spirit parts of many other kangaroo animals (not men) who 
came subsetjuently and, as the natives say, went down into the 
earth here. The rock is, in fact, the Knanja stone of the kangaroo 
animals, and to them this particular rock has just the same relationship 
as the waterhole close by lias to the men. TTie one is full of Kurti/tas 
of kangaroo animals, just as the other is full of those of men and 
women. The purpose of the ceremony at the present day, so say the 
natives, is, by means of pouring out the blood of kangaroo men upon 
the rock, to drive out in all directions the Ktinmas of the kangaroo 
animals and so to increase the number of animals, Tliespmt kangaroo 
enters the female kangaroo in just the same way in wliich the spirit 
kangaroo man enters the kangaroo w'oman, 

" Every animal such as a kangaroo is supposed to have a Kumaa 
or spirit part, just like a human being has. As a Kuruoa it has no 
legs or arms or head, but goes into its mother and grows into a kangjaroo 
or rat or wild dog, as the case may be. An emu Kunjita goes into an 
emu, who lays an egg containing the little emu Kunma, which is very 
small and cannot at first be seen, but it grows into an emu inside its 
mother’s ekuffij or baby bag, and hatches out." ^ 

" Churinga is the name given by the Arunta nativs to certain 
sacred objects which, on penalty of death or very severe punishment, 
such as blinding by a fire-stick, are never allowed to be seen by 
women or uninitkited men. The term is also applied to various objects 
associated with the totems, but the greater number belong to that 
r ja<ig of rounded, oval or elongated, flattened slabs of wood and 
Slone, varying in length from 6 or 7 feet to a or 3 inches, to the 
smaller ones of which the name bull-roarer is now commonly 

It must be remembered diat the country occupied by the tribes, 
amongst whom the cult of die Churinga exists, is of great extent, so 
that, even in important respects, beliefs ^ary considerably. It is, 
however, possible to say that there is one fundamental Churinga belief 
according to which ewry individual possesses a special one of wood 
or stone with which his or her Autum, or spirit part. Is intimately 

" The original Churinga are, one and all, connected with the 
Kjumjas or totems. At the present day the whole country is dotted 
over with or lo^ totem centres, and each of these has 

1 IbHL, g4-f- ' * IfakL.lM. 



one or more sacred storcliouses in whJch the Churinga are kepi 
under the charge of the head man of the local group, 

" The general name for the head man, throughout raost^ but not 
atl, of the totemic groups, is and for the storehouse, Periakkera 

{percHy a rock), in reference to die fact that crevices and caves in rocks 
are the favourite secreting places. Pertalciera thus signifies the 
Alchera rock. Each one of th^e contains, amongst others, the original 
Churinga of every individual that, in one ^^y or another, came to 
be deposited there in the Alchera. With each of these, again, a 
Kurima or spirit is associated. When the Kitrumz goes into a woman 
and a child is bom, the old men determine what Kuruna has under¬ 
gone reincarnation. The Churinga is preserved in the PertalcAeraj 
and there it remains in association with the j^nmtAarmgaj or double 
or die Kuiumi. Hiis Churinga is known as the CAurmga or 

CAuri/iga inJtilla-irrahira. The ^mmAurhigay however, can travel 
about freely, and, in fact, often visits, and is supposed to watch over, 
its human representadve* Tie spot at which die child is bom and 
brought up, and at whidi it will probably spend the greater part 
of its life, has nodung to do widi determining the resting-place of 
its Churinga. That remains in the storetiouse or F^nakh^ra in which 
it was deposited in the Alchera, and to 'which the Kunma —now called 
Uitftaw —returns when the man or woman dies. In the case, for 
example, already quoted, in which a witchcity gmh woman conceived 
a child in a water locality, or Knanikiik^ ra miles to the north 
of Alice Springs, where the woman^s home camp is located, the child 
was horn at the latter^ but its Ckurbiga huif^a is deposited in the 
PcrtakAcra of the water group to which it belonged in the Alchera. 

So far as the possession of the C&i^ri/iga humja is conoemed, each 
man and woman has a personal one; men, but not women, may 
possess others by inheritance. The most detailed and important 
traditions relating to die origin of Churinga is that associated with 
the Achilpa [wild-cat] totem ,.. * The tradition, so for as it deals 
with Churinga, is shortly as follows:— 

A great Being called Numbakulla made the first Achilpa Churinga 
with a Kiifuna assocbted with it, from which the first Achilpa man 
originated. Later on, he fashioned very large numbers of Churinga 
belonging to all Knanjas or totems, drawing upon each the design 
or designs now characteristic of the Kna^jas- Each one of these 
was associated with a Kuruiui or spirit which NumbakuUa liad 
previously made. Leaders, or of K/tanJa groups, some AcJiilpa 


(wild some Ertta (emu),^ some Amra (fcangaroo), some Unjiajnba 
(Hatea flower), etc., were sent out with numbers of Churinga and 
JCunmas tliai gave rise to groups of individual men and women, each 
witli his or her own Churinga, ail of which were deposited finally in 
various P^rralck^ras. According to the Achilp tradition, the original 
Churinga, made by NumbakuLU and afterwards by the Achiip/dta^^ir, 
in die Akhera, were all ^tone ones called CAuringa talkara. First of 
all a number of these w^ere made, then each of them was split into 
two, one of which was Atua or uria (male), the other Arn^^a or 
malia (female)* The pairs are now called CAua nbiga^ but the old 
Alchera name for them was Unpora mnga* According to the Achilpa 
tradition, the two forming a pair were tied together with hair string. 
Later on the Inkaia AcAiIp<i transformed the female Churinga 

—thac is, rhe ones with which a woman's Kunma was associated— 
into wooden ones called CAurmga Some of the Latter had 

holes bored through them, and were called TiJJamra alkmirlnja. This 
tradition accounts for the fact that at die present rime only men have 
CAurbtga talk<ira — that is, stone ones. The Stone ones are commonly 
spoken of collectively as CAuringa pena^ the wooden ones as Churinga 
rola. The special, personal Churinga belonging to each individual 
is also spoken of as his of her Churinga knanja. Each one of these 
original Churinga, wooden and stone alike, is also called Ifuiuiia- 
irrakura. In addition to these Churinga, that were carried by the 
Alcheia ancestors, there are two ocher kinds. When the old l^a/as 
marched across the country they left Kuruna —always in pairs—in 
the Ti^a (muJga) trees* In the Alchera *,, an Okmrra^a^ wandering 
through the bush, would suddenly catch sight of an Iwupa^ or 
spirit, in the form of a child pbying about on one of the trees ■ it 
would suddenly disappear, and then the old man knew that it was 
one of die Kuruna left by the Inkaia. Splitting a block of wood, 
taken from the tree, the OAmrroiata then fashioned from it a pair 
of Churinga, one associated with the male and the other with 
the female spirit. That tree henceforth regarded as the Roia 
hia/tja of each Kuruna and of the human beings to whom they gave 

” The Churinga thus made were placed in the local Pertidefura 
and were regarded as Indulla-irrahiray but, in this case, the man w'ho 
arose from the Kuruna had a wooden and not a stone Churinga. 

According to other traditiom—and the traditions vary to a 
certain extent in different parts of the country and in different local 


groups — less stress is laid upon the Irthauij though there appears 
aU'ays to have been a leader of each travelling group, tn some 
cases^ as described in connection with the totems, the ancestors are 
stated to have arisen at a defuuie place and to have remained lliere. 
Each ancestor had one, and only one, original Giuringa, carried 
either by die Inkaia or by himself, or herself, because, quite unlike 
what happens at the present time, women were allowed, in the Alcliera, 
to see and own sacred objects such as Churinga, Nununjas, and 
ffaningas. When he, or she, died, that Churinga, associated with its 
Kuruna, remained behind in the Pertakhera^ in which it had been 
placed for safe keeping by the Inkata or the Alchera ancestor. Accord¬ 
ing to another widespread tradition, the spirit is supposed to drop 
its Churinga when it enters a woman. On the birth of a cbtid, the 
mother tells her husband the position of the tree or rock near to which 
she believes the child entered her, and the man, accompanied by one 
or two of the older men, and always, if alive, by his own father— 
that is, the j^runga of the child—goes in search of the Churinga. 
Sometimes it is found, somerimes it is not; in the btter case a new 
one Is made from the mulga, or some hard-wood uee, near to the 
Pertalchefa of the child, and is marked by the Arufiga with a design 
belonging to the child's totem. The Churinga is then placed in the 
Pertakhefa and is regarded as the child’s Ckufingtt hianja^ with 
which its Kunma is associated. 

“ In some parts of the tribe, especially the Central and Northern 
divisions, whilst there is the same belief with regard to die existence 
of the original Churinga, the custom prevails of the Aranga — -that is, 
tlte patent^ grandfather of a child—going out into the scrub when a 
<diild is born, and making a wooden Churinga out of a tree close to 
the PertAchtra, This has nothing to do with the original one, which, 
according to this tradition, is left in the Ptrtfdckerit, It is called 
Twattylrrihit, and is ornamented with a design belonging to the 
child’s totem. The size—^it is often a large one—and design are 
decided upon by the Artatga, but it has no Kurwta associated with it. 
A large number of these are stored in the Pertakhera ; they are much 
used during totemic ceremonies, such as those shown at the Engwura^ 
and it is one or more of these that are placed in the youth’s liands after 
circumcision. The natives say, Churinga Twoi^irrikaj itja Kuruna^ 
that is, it is a Twanyirrika Churinga, but has no Kunma" ^ 

*' Each Churinga is so closely Iwund up with the spirit individual 

* IbicL^ 


that it is regarded as its representatives in the Ptrtakhem. Those of 
dead men are supposed to he endowed with the attributes and powers 
of their owner, and actual 1/ to impart these to the person who, for 
the time being, may, as when a fight takes place, be fortunate enough 
to carry one of iheni about with him. Tlie Cliuringa is supposed to 
endow the possessor with courage and accuracy of aim, and also to 
deprive his opponent of these qualities. So firm is their belief in 
this, that, if two men were fighting and one of them knew that the 
other carried a Chuiinga, whilst he did not, he would certainly lose 
heart at once, and without doubt be beaten/' ^ 

“ We meet in tradition with unmistakable traces of the idea that 
the Churinga is the dwelling-place of the spirit of the Alchera ancestor. 
The Achilpa belief is that tlie Kurtaut or spirits were first made by 
Numbakulla, and, later, a Churinga for each one of them. One 
tradition rebtes tliat, when the Achilpa men were out hunting, they 
erected a sacred pole or Nurumja^ that they carried with them during 
tlieir wanderings, and on this hung their Cliuringa and placed their 
spirit parts in them for safe keeping, taking tliem down when they 
returned to camp. Wliilst diis is so in regard to Alchera tradition, 
it must be pointed out clearly that the Arunta native, at the present 
day, does not regard the Churinga as the abode of his own spirit 
part, placed in the Ptrtalchera for safety, though at the same dme it 
is intimately assoebted with himself, and more especially with his 
Arumiuringa, which is really the twin or double of his own Kuntna^ 
and the half of tlie ori^nal Kuruna of Ills Alchera ancestor. If anything 
happens to it—it be stolen—he mourns over it deeply, and has a 
vague idea that some ill may befall him, but he does not imagine that 
damage to the Churinga of necessity means destrticrion to himself. 
The value of die Churinga lies in the fact that each one is intimately 
associated witli, and is, indeed, die representative of, one of the 
Alchera ancestors, with the attributes of which it is endowed. It is 
also fell that the Arumiuringa, which spends much of its time in 
and around the Pertalchera, in which the Churinga is kept, may follow 
it, and thus the individual will lose die guardianship of the spirit.” ^ 
According to the Achilpa tradition, “ Whilst many leaders, locally 
known as Inkata, Aiatunja^ Chitchufta^ or Ckimtckwa-^ are a^odated 
witli Alchera times and mytlis, Numhakulb, according to this tiadidon, 
is the supreme ancestor, overshadowing all others. He gave rise to all 
the ori^nal Kurunas^ Chuiingas, and Knmjctif in fact to everjrthing 

iJbiitiiou * IbuL^ III-II, 


associated with the Alchera- He himself had no speda] Knanja or 
totem, but made and oumed them all. During his long travels he 
created many of the main features of die country and decided upon 
the location of the central places now a^octatcd with the various 
Kitaftjas —Achilpa (wild cat), Erlia (emu), Amra (kangaroo), Udnirrin- 
gita (witchetty grub), Irriakuia (yelka), Emora (opossum), etc. 

At every such place he put his foot down, saying, Nana, Knanja 
j4cAiIpa^ £rlia ^riiru, etc.; here is wild cat, emu, kangaroo, etc*, 
Knanp. Then he drew and left on some rock or ground surface whai 
is called a Chufinga that is, a speciaJ design or mark associated 

with the totem of that locality. Each of these designs now forms the 
distinctive mark or Iliima of the JOiartJa of tliat place.” ^ 

“ Numbakulla thus created all die original Kiiruna and Churinga* 
He himself was full of Kurum ; as the natives say, Kumna k/aira 
flfeiVffl, hvanala mUrkd Numifokul/a; there were a very large number 
of Kiirima^ inside the body of Numbakulb; and again, Kunma 
araJuMAa (or araJsigga) ku^mnih^ Numiiikuli ^; the Kunma came 
out from inside NumbakuUa^^ 

The first Cliuringa made by Numbakulla and placed by him on 
the CAuringa Ilpmtira is called Churmga inJuIla-irra^ra Numtahilla^^ 
All of the original Alchera Oiuringa, made by NumhaLkulla and 
subsequently produced from thern or made by the various ancestral 
Irdaitas of the dijfferent Knanjas or totem groups, are also called 
CAurmga inJuHa-irraJtura, By the splitting of each of these original 
ones a pair was made. The pairs were at first tied together, and 
eaclj man and woman had one of them associated witli his, or her, 
Kurufia or spirit, which was originally placed in it by Numbakulla. 
One Cliuringa of each pair had an arua or man's spirit, the other an 
arragutja or wOman^s. Each Churinga liad also an Aritna eAuringa^ 
or sacred name, associated with it and its Kunma^ and all these names 
were given, originally, by Numbakulla. Later on, the /Qirtmas 
emanated from the Churinga, and g;ave rise to men and women, each 
of whom bore, as his or her ^cred name, the one given to the Churinga 
by Numbakulla. 

^ [bfd.f & 

* The word afm&igga Or is gcDcrally used with the mcanuigf of coming OUl of, 

ot heing ^rii, in the phmsci T/ntfga r&iapfti ih^ child was bom yirsbcrday. Tbf 

word hs^/aliigga is mom often nwl whoi o? a €Pdnio|; col nr emulating 

a Chumif^ ; for example, wSien a mui it hti own Ckunnga he is xnU, 

None Chitingi: mgwma j unis knaUJuiugg^ y Iter ii your Chilringa ttidcJla- 

KmLuja ■ you came OUL of it. The CtuirLFm ii mt ic^jEaidcd as ibc bodyn or of the 

man; ihs mA^rka is stippersed to be formed bier ihe KuftiTMi^ having fefE the Churinga, 

HiUrs a woman." {S. and G.) * lOIcm deWgIX 


'* The natives are very definite in regard to the fact that the Churinga 
is not the changed body {rnhrga or of the man or woman: 

the original Churinga and Kuruna were made by Numbakulla before 
tliere were any men or women.” * 

" It must be remembered diat every one of the great number of 
Kmunas that gave rise to ail the men and women of the various 
Kitanjas was, according to this tradition, created originally by Numba¬ 
kulla. Some of them, such as those associated with iTikaia AchUpa 
toafakiartay Irikata Achilpa okturoy lakata Achilpa Kupitcha^ Illapti'^ 
rinja, and the Inhicas of other Kotmjasy emanated from Qiurin^ 
in the Alchera and gave rise directly to human beings—^without 
entering a woman. Tn all other cases the Kumtia entered a woman 
and, within her, gave rise to a child called Ratappa — the term applied 
to the child developing within the womb and also to the new-bom 
baby. The ' spirit diild * tliat enters a woman always does so, as a 
JCunma, through her loins, never by wsay of the vulva. The Kumna 
is described as being very small, round, like a very little pebble, and 
red in colour. It is shapeless and Itas neither arms nor legs nor head, 
but develops these within the mother and gives rise to a Ratappa. 
It does not enter as a Ratappa^ but as a KuftmSy and only changes 
into the former within the womb or Upa“^ 

The natives are quite dear on the point that in die case of all the 
Knanjas originated by Numbakulla, men and women of the same 
JCnanjay or totem, were arranged in pairs as mates, and married one 
another. It followed that, at fet, all the members of one local group, 
men, women, and children, belonged to the same Knanjuj but, when 
Knanikillaj and Knanjas had become established and the people 
increased in numbers and began to move about the country, visiting 
different camps and assembling at various places to perform ceremonies, 
the Kurunoi of one Kmnja group entered women of another, and so 
the present irregular local distribution of men and women of difTerent 
totems or Knanjas was brought about. At the same time the majority 
of individuals in any one locality typically belong to the Kttanfa 
that has its Pertaicktra there.” * 

* IbiiL, 

■ Than Ufn» re-fstf la like Ant fourlnkati^or tht A3dl«a in onicr ofimponsnot, T™«li\'dy, 
the Very Inkad^ the gnat Tnl:aTap ^ law bikatiL imd the liiUe IfilutsL. 

» IbnL* "* The temi it strictly spitifig^ to a 'iptrit-difEd''. The 

■pint ii alwayi tpoktn of as a and it h CtUy after CEiIerii^ the meincT that it givea 

nie Co a Evm ut the tconep bD called bnause a vnaJJ child went iht 

ground dim, il Ua Kafurm md not a Ratt^ppa that enuena wofnaSr The temi li al^'ayi 

uied in tefcrencc to the spirit itself^ cither berore h eflltrf the mothcf or aii*r it leivts the hody;^ 
(S, and G-) * lhKL,j6^370, 


“ When a man or woman dies, the spirit part, or Kurma^ im¬ 
mediately leaves the body and flies away to its Punalchsra iti die 
form of a little bird called Chkhurkna, whose whistling is often heard 
when there has been a deatli in the camp. As soon as it has joined 
its Arumhuringa the latter hastens from its Krumja tree, or rock, or 
from its Periackera, to the grave, to protect the body against attacks 
by mischievous spirits called Prancha. It remains there until the 
ATurH-ufjbta or girdle, made of hair cut from the dead man, has been 
woven. During this short period of perhaps three or four days, 51 
leceives the special name of Alhiuruiiaia. Tt then goes back to its 
Klumja tree, and the spirit of the dead man returns to the grave in the 
form of an UMima until the final mourning ceremony of {/rpmHcJii- 
milia has been held, after W'hich it returns to the PertakheTa^ and there 
joins the Arumiuringa and other spirit beings, assuming once more 
the form of a Kurtioa that can enter a woman and be reborn.” * 

From this account of die Alchera and conceptional beliefs of tlve 
Arunta the following points emergje; (i) that cadi individual is the 
incarnation of an Alchera JCuru/ui or the reincarnation of an Alchera 
ancestor, (i) whose spirit part or Kuruna enters the prospective 
mother directly from its Kjuvija or abode, diat is, the place at which 
it was deposited in the Alchera, (3) generally choosing a woman as 
its mother whose husband is of the correct moiety, that (4) on occasion 
a Kursata may deliberately choose to enter a woman of the " wrong ” 
and so bring it about that the living representative of an Alchera 
ancestor belongs to a class different from tliat of the ancestor whose 
incarnation he is, die totem, of course, remaining unchanged, (0 that 
the Kuruna therefore exhibits a certain amount of liberty of choice 
as to the woman, the moiety, and the class which it will enter, (fi) that 
the Churinga represents the split half of the Kuruna of the totem 
ancestor, the other half being is guardian spirit, the Arumhurb^ay 
that (7) after his death the spirit part of an individual remms to its 
Churinga in the Petiakktray (8) that the native does not regard the 
Qiuringa as the abode of his own spirit part, but ratlier of the Arum- 
hufingOy which watches over the Kuruna^ the Churinga, and 10 a 
certain extent, himself, and finally (9) that intercourse does not pby 
any causal part in the production of pregnancy, which is conceived 
to be due to the entrance into a woman of a Kuruna. 

There are a number of points in this account whidi are not very 
dear, and the most important of these is one that we have already 


encoumered in our discussion of Schullers report^ namely wheclser 
the individual represents an incamarion of an Alchera spirit or die 
spirit part of an AJchera anoesior only^ or a nemcarnarion of that 
ancestor ovo in/ malci^ soul and body^ According to Spencer 
and Gj 11 efi*s aocouni, it would appear that the individual is^ among 
die Aninta, regarded as a complete reincarnation of an actual Aldiera 
aucestorj body as well as soul, though not necessarily of the 
AJchera ancestors. The lack of clarity arises dtiefly from Spencer 
and Gillen's rarelessitess in speaking at one time as if a Kurima were 
merely a discarmte soul, the spirit part Qnfy of an individual, and at 
another drue os if it represented dve complete AJchera ano^tor, 
the reader being left to choose, unossistedi between the two alter¬ 
natives afforded. Nowhere, however, in Spencer and Gillen s account 
is there any explicit statement tliat die individual is the reincamation 
of the spirit part ^nfy of an ancestor, and not also of his corporeal 
part^ Willi respect to the native's beltefe concerning the fate of the 
body and of the spirit after death, according to Spencer and Gillen 
it would be quite obvious to him that at death the body undergoes 
a physical dissolution, and that the spirit must therefore leave it and 
return to its abode. But the rtadve, it appears, is no Platonic dichoto- 
mist, and we must avoid any confusion wlucli would result here 
from thinking him so, for the spirit which leaves the body after 
death is not merely the spirit of that particular body. It is a Kuruna^ 
the actual being of an eternally incarnable Alchera ancestor in spirit 
or quasi-spirit form, a spirit soul Wbody, for the IGirtma is described 
as having a definite, though it be a somewhat amorphous, structure, 
** very small, round, like a very little pebble, and red in colour 
Furtlier, " it is shapeless, and lias neither arms nor leg^ nor head, 
but develops these within the moriier and gives rise to a Ratappa^ 
developing from a diminutive liitle thing, the Kuruna^ into a baby, 
a Ratappa^ witliin the mother-^ It would seem then, that the Kunma 
represen IS an already preformed individual who undergoes an un¬ 
folding only within die mother's womb, in which, before tlie entry 
of the Knriina into her, no other soul or body could have been present: 
“ the mherka** that is, ie body, write Spencer and Gillen," is supposed 
to be formed later when the KufimHj having left the Churinga, enters 
a woman/^ ^ Thus, the primirive or elementary anatomical structure 
of the KMruna is developed within the womb of its modier into a 

^ FAi vfrwnJfli, 3S3* 
* Ibii| 35*1 ^ 



proper body, which nmy be identical with the body of a particular 
AJcheia ancestor who has already undergone repeated incamadons 
in the past* Tile body of the individual who dies is but the litisk of 
a soul and a body which are immortal, A Kursmaf then^ is properly 
the germ of a complete individual, being made up of the spiritud 
and corporeal parts of an Alchera, or more recent human, ancestor. 
It follows, therefore, tliat upon this view there can be no question 
of the incarnation of the spirit part atone of smA an ancestorj nor can 
there be any question of an already pre-existing body within the 
mother into which the spirit part alone enters, for die body develops 
only after the Kurtma lias entered the mother—from the Karma* 
Thus, the whole process of conoeption and pregnancy is due to no 
other cause than that the woman has been entered by a Kurima. Tlie 
Kurma is the cause of conception* 

A second point of Imporiance which requires consideration here 
is the question whetlier intercourse pbys any part, either as a condldon 
or as a cause^ m the production of conception and pregnancy. In this 
connection Spencer and Gillen state that . we have amongst the 
Arunta, Luritcha,and Ilpirra tribes, and probably also amongst others 
such as the Warrammga, the idea firmly held that the child is not the 
direct result of intercourse, but it may come without this^ which 
merely, as it prepares the mother for the reception and birtli 
also of an already formed spirit ctuld who inhabits one of the local 
totem centres. Time after time we have questioned them on tlus 
point, and always received the reply that the child was not the direct 
result of intercourse/' ^ 

The statement tliat the child is not the direct result of intercourse, 
that it may come without thismay, as it stands^ be taken to mean 
that the child is considered to be the direct result of factors other 
than intercourse, but that intercourse is assumed to Iiave an indirect 
connection with the enity of the spirit child into the woman; what 
this indirect connection consists in is briefly indicated in die phrase 
that intercourse " merely, as it were, prepares the mother for the 
reception and birth also of an already foitn^ spirit child who inhabits 
one of the local totem centres”. In other words, in some cases 
intercourse is regarded as an act not altogether unrelated to the 
entry of a spirit child into a woman- Intercoutse prepares the vroman 
for the reception as well as the birth of a spirit child^ but intercourse 
is, apparently^ not absolutely necessary, since the spirit child may 

* TAi JVriM &f 137 - TA# AjimtOj HX. 


enter and be born of a wornan as a Ratappa ** without this . Clearly, 
therefore, intercourse is regarded as bearing a certain relatioitship 
to pregnancy, namely, as the preparer of the woman for the reception 
of the spirit child, for though the preparation by intercourse is a 
dispensable process, without which the spirit child or TCHriaia will 
enter a woman in any event, it is nevertheless recognized that as a rule 
the preparation by intercourse is helpfiil. 

It that Spencer and Gillen repeatedly inquired of the natives 
whether pregnancy was possible without intercourse, and that the 
replies they received led them to believe that intercourse was regarded 
as having nothing whatsoever to do with cotitsprion ot the sense of 
being productive ofh. Intercourse merely opens the woman up, pi^ 
pares her, but it depends entirely upon the will of the spirit diild 
whether or not it will enter her. Often enough a spirit child will 
enter a woman without this preliminary preparation. Conception 
begins with the entranoe of the spirit child, not with intercoutse. 

TIic Australian world is essentially a spiritual world, and material 
acts arc invested with a spiritual significance. Human beings have a 
long spiritual history behind them, and the spirimal source of every 
member of the tribe is known. The spiritual origin of children is the 
fundamental belief, and amongst the most important stays of the 
social fabric, li were absurd then to think. In the face of such know¬ 
ledge, that an act such as intercourse could be the cause of a child. 
The investigator's questions in this connection w'ould perhaps strike 
the native as somewhat stupid, since from his earliest years inter¬ 
course lias been an almost daily experience with him, so that whilst 
intercourse and pregnancy would geneiaUy tend to occur together, 
so would eating, walking, breathing, excreting, sleeping, and so on ; 
there could be no reason for possibly associating the one with 
the other, excepting that the physical act of intercourse between 
the sexes would have the effect of “ opening up ” the womb of the 
mother, and thus, in the event of a spirit child electing to enter the 
particular woman, it would find ingress easy and everything in order 
upon its arrival. Thb, in effect, is the answer which Spencer and 
Gillen received to the question on this point which as they say, they 
asked time after time. 

Here it is necessary to point out that the Kuruna does not enter 
the woman through fhe vulva, but either through the abdomen, the 
loins, the navel, or the mouth, so that the “ preparation" has no 
reference to tlie opening up of the vaginal canal itself, although. 



according to Strehlow, the natives regard the opening up as definitely 
physical as far as the womb is concerned, for without this opening 
up it is believed that the woman’s womb would not be in a condition 
to receive a Kumna. It is also quite possible tiiat the operation is 
regarded as a ritual act which may promote the enuy of a Kunma 
into a wonran. 

It must be pointed out that the knowledge of anatomy which most 
primitive peoples possess is in most respects extremely rudimentary, 
whilst their knowledge of the function of the various structures of 
the body is in no better state. The Australians are no exception to 
this rule, nor, for that matter, is die averse young man or woman of 
our own enlightened society. Tlie Australians, however, are good 
obsert'ers, and since they do not indulge in intercouise bemneen the 
sheets, nor snuff the candle when they do, hut adopt a sitting face-to- 
face position which renders such observation inescapable, diey cannot 
have failed to observe the relations which would easily enable them 
to deduce the position of the male organ during coitus widiin tile body 
of the female. Such experiences would suggest that the male organ 
enters the abdomen, and hence, the notion might well come about 
that it is the abdomen which intercourse opens up, that is, renders 
commodious, and dius efficiently prepares for the reception of a 
spirit child. 

Again, we may observe here that intercourse happens to be the 
merest of accidents in Its capacity as a preparer of the w'Oman for 
the reception of the spirit didd, and we may aUo readily see that it 
would be objectionable from every point of view to allow the possi¬ 
bility of artificial manipulation of the proper parts to supplant the 
male oigan in this connection. Upon this view of the matter it would 
almtKii seem to be the obvious function of the penis to prepare die 
female for the reception of a spirit child, since, apart from its more 
ordinary functions of providing a passage into the external world 
of urine and ejaculatory fluid, it could hardly be imagined to serve 
any other more useful purpose. It is, indeed, in die very nature of 
intercDiirse that the penis serves as a preparer of die woman, both 
physically and psychologically, for the reception of an Alchcra, a 

dream ” child, and it would appear that Spencer and Gillen took 
the prepaiadon by intercourse of die woman to mean no more 
than this. 

We may then, I think, reasonably conclude fioiii Spencer and 
Gillen’s account that among the Arunta pregnancy Is considered 


neither a direct nor an indirect result of intercourse, nor, apparently, 
is it even considered as an indispensable condition thereof, as it Is 
apiong certain neighbouring trib^, whose ideas in this connecrion 
we slall shortly have occasion to examine. 

It is to be greatly legretted that no otic up to the present time 
to have felt it necessary to question the Arunta upon their 
conception of the nature of the seminal fluid. The otnission appears 
the more extraordinary in view of the important light which any 
notions that the native might have concerning the nature and ftmetions 
of this substance would undoubtedly throw upon their procrcadve 
beliefs. Spencer and Gillen’s complete silence upon this point, not 
to speak of that of so many other observers, upon die subject of the 
seminal or ejacularory fluid, is, however, not altogether without its 
sJgnilicance, for did the seminal fluid play any conspicuous role in the 
natives’ conception of things it would unquestionably have become 
evident in some, at least, of the ceremonies and customs reported 
by them, but it has not done so, and I tliink, dierefore, that we shall 
not be unjustified in assuming diat the seminal fluid is not regarded 
as of any great importance in die native conception of its functions, 
whatever that may be, and tliat at most its function is conceived to 
be that of a lubricating agent, as it is regarded, for example, among 
the Trobriand Islanders.^ 

If, dien, pregnancy is not the result of intercourse, who, tlien, if 
any, are the biologic^ parents of a child ? The answer would appear 
to be quite simple. Not the individual who stands in the relation of 
husband to the woman the child calb “ mother his father, nor yet 
the mother herself, but Numbakulla, the maker of all the Alciiera 
ancestors, the Kuruna) Churinga, Pertakkera^ JCrtanja, and JGtaniii&i.. 
It is essentially with Numbakulla as die central figure that the most 
important ceremonies of the Arunta are celebrated, for he is indeed 
the creator of every member of the tribe, in the sense that every 
member of the tribe is the incarnation or a reincarnation of an Aichcra 
being created by him, and to whom he thus owes his existence! 
he is, as Spencer and Gillen write, “ the supreme ancestor, over- 
shadonfing all others." ® Hie natives assert that in tlie Alchera 
Numbakulla was full of Aarana, and that he gave birth to these Aaninii,* 
which " gave rise to all the men and women of the various Krtanjas 

^ Suruai IJfi ^SavegiSf 

* [bUL^ j6x. 



some of them giving " rise directly to human beings—without 
entering a woman 

From this it is quite evident that the only real biological parent 
recognized by the Arunta is HumbakuUa, their actual ginioir. The 
relationship is looked upon not as a supernatural one, hut as a perfectly 
natural one, for every individual is the natural oflspring of Numba- 
kulla, tliat is, in the sense of having been directly or indirectly created 
by his command. He alone, therefore, can possibly be die biological 
parent of every Arunta. It must be remembered, however, that the 
Kuruna created by Numbakulla, or bom of him, actually represent, 
as far as human beings are conoemed, the transformations of various 
plants, animals, Inapcrtwa^ and so forth. We may then consider 
Numbakulla as the host witliin whom the lower kind of Kuruna was 
transformed into the higher, just as the transformation occurs within 
the mother host to-day, that is, from a Kuruna to a Ratappa* Numba¬ 
kulla, of course, created all the tilings he transformed, and likewise 
regulated their transformation and distribution. Women, it appears, 
were created in order to serve as hosts for the Kuruna after Numba¬ 
kulla had disappeared. According to the Achilpa tradition, the first 

1 IhicLj 

> Paicr W. Sc^inmd^ in i exf drigirt and cf conccpdJmU bdiertdf 

ilu Aiunu as icpcKrt «3 by Strchluifp hjis vomc inlcroting chcorks td in iliiJ mnncctidfi. 
[ give tbem here for ibcy m but t dd not propdte to di»UH ihemp »acc they 

reptneieni the snrt of sfxculiEivc mtErpcctifiain which. I considjcr it ^t?uid he iridiee 
to prove or dirafovnei To me it qnly that Schmidi'i interpnetatian would nuke oi die^ 

Arunta the kitvd of mwsphyiiidafM th^t I <Lo not for a naocoaii bdi« e them ever to hm e b«fi. 
Schmidt wrifta t *\ .« among the Artmw it tlw aupemamral bdnfl. MAngartunierkimja 
tibia is the Hrtu bring vdio amdii^ the matt tM>nbcm Arunta uuda^d by Speacer and Gilten 
Li called Numbakidla] that Icadi men from thear impcrfct futtnlee:^ Mate iri(d the socioldgiCidJy 
higher 000 of tatemismj far at diat time Kc gave to cvevy mao a i/urjingv Rod dcidgtuued 

it U the body of the oqe cotmected wiih iL Tfaiu, the tjurunga Ls the c^temaJ fyinbol fdr chla 
Eicw higher dUimde, af being put mto ndarlon with a toternic ancefltor. I muit 

also point out that One of the two riKWi CSquem meihodi df conoqinQn tn whidi tbe tommic 
apeescor plays the mwt important part beCaU^ he hlEtt-Seif appears m nn active roEe [j tUiiA>indt/nd 
omsists in die Bnceslur^s throwing a mall tjumffga, a rtamattma^ CD^'ard? the woman, 
witich ii in her body ttanifonned into a hunun foriiL Miun^kunjokunja thus did not ctcaEe 
men txisua but found them idtndy in a living 9 nt& UkcMiie, the idea ortginalfy lying m the 
hiBQ of the conccptidiuJimi seems Ed be that the totefnic ancestor Kl not rcspon^Sle for ihc 
eccin exiiEsnce of the auhsequent belngp but merely j^ranri it the sociologically KL|*ih^ exisCctiOe 
of whldu how'cvtTT they are abioluidy in need, under pneseni condiQoiiSp in order to exist at all. 
THli higher exiite^ 10 to fpok, gmniod m a sort of lodolc^cil enmlediy in a muF^ri^ 
prirnttf mfirmltf which, in turn, on'^Tiatea from the practeativc and therefore 

from the rrlation with the mim. Since for special reasofis .. . the ODOAcetton w'iih die Eoiem 
of the male has beco lost effdiely iioiong the Amnta, the attempt was therefore made of entirely 
denying by dint of consiftenr tfaeorizing the imporunce of d» male in roncepcioAf an atiempl, 
boweveTp whidii ii ^eems ^caiuKit be oareied our eompktely in yiew of the gencT^ knowledge 
aod eKpericpeA 

" [i 11 Intrpcisdble w ob^ to thi* theory on the gmund of Scnehlow^* scaEcment concemlng 
the niture of the mn^pp^ (■i'PiHi cbiklX * these ratijppi m fully developed bop and girk of a 
zeddlsh oDJopIcKioilp they possess a bc^ and huL' Jt mtlit ck obs^'edp of all^ that the 
oduur ilrcady maitiooed method of cooeepdon knows only of the nwniTfHnia whieh jH4uiojcs 
human Conn only within die body of the molhei'. Furthennorep it must be obuTved that the 


woman who serii’ed as a host, or mother, for the Kuruna was Illa- 
pudnja who was created directly from a Churinga according to the 
instructions left by Numbakulla to his !nkata^‘ The second woman, 
Lungarinia, was brought into being through the medium of llla- 
purinja.^ In the Alchera la^ numbers of Kuruna entered first Ilia- 
purinja and subsequently Lungarinia, giving rise immediately to men 
and women.^ These women were necessary because the Alchera 
fnkitas were full of Kurma, as were the Churinga in their possession, 
which had first to find a host before they could be bom as men and 
women. Subsequently the Churlnga were split into pairs, or mates, 
one half female the other half male.* 

According to this conception of the nature of coming into being ”, 
it is evident that the woman who gives birth to a child merely acts 
as the medium through whom it b conveyed into the proper moiety 
and section of the tribe, and in and tlorough whom it undergoes die 
necessary transformation from a Kuruna into a Ratoppa, Sometimes 
a Kuruna enters the wrong woman in error, in such cases the child 
is invariably born dead-* When, however, it deliberately chooses 
to enter the wrong woman, all is well. Thus, the entry of a Kurn/ia 
into a woman, its development, and birth, are each mattets which 
are completely independent of her in every physical sense. There is 
no symbiotic relationship between her and the developing Raiap^ 
for once a Kuruna has entered a woman its development is of its 
own nature inevitable! From the physical standpoint, then, the 
mother of a child b no more than the host who has reedved and given 
birth to a child which has chosen to enter her. She b merely the 

nJEt ihit hdplcM beiqgl of priinoidial tlTTVfi , wedvod theif final fomi int th« 

use of chdr limlrt from Manijarkuiljejkuaj* 00 I 7 , file ftrtifldef of ihifta\ga Wfemim. Fonraty 
their eyes wm cloeed, lb«r limbs firmly adherent to the tiunll, all ill iHBEly the mythiol 

cKpreshon of a sodofogleal wid not a phyaieal Jafenoriiy " ( 88 ^^)* .. 

" Eliewheic I have empluAlied {jiiuAropei, 1^, lii. dijJ that we are hew dealuijt net en* 
(diysioloeiol cf dc^epmenr, but widi lodelogiail sta^« of devdepruenr, tb« uve 

pECaful ^plesSMas o( tHc rtUs id die lEc oantco^E of * ^ 

taitt in la own opinion im wdojogEoU^ and cuJbdidly niperiar to die orieiiial ipbnbittots 
witom it found. Thcrdsy tiuA nK* illdk»W* that it conaiden iwcif a Btrangier and an inv^^ 
iHm win Mt responaihie for the presom culmraJ itatua 'Of tht Amnat rcprrscM a 
iotmig^L elcraoiT .. <8So) ** Die SlcUung dcT A™cb outer den au^raliichon Stimtnoi/ 

Zsuekrifi fur Jtl, tse«, It owy Iteoe be nmarked dtw thm u 

iKwhifift in any Amnt^ whkh CMy be intcrpnrtod U exhihcliiig dus dww of 

eonnmiipi for dte nlia rrvptffiAfa. or inap^tva^ On the other hand^ ihs Arunia consider tn^ U 
their faidt^lcal rriarivei fiwn whom they art descended, dniDc they wrt by Niuiihakiilb 
tiaiufocin^ ftom ih™, and for whom dbtrefoie they po&W an and nnpect whidl 

\t displayed during the ooufte of their totemic ORmnniei. 

t AfJiiiTii, j-Sa. 

* QaiELi 3&4r 

■ m± 

■ Ihid-T 

* Ibid., 



medium through whom a Kunma 15 transformed into a Ratapp^i^ and 
transmitted as an individual into the proper tribal group. Betu^n 
herself and the child there can obviously be no physical rebtionship 
whatsoever, for in each case the ancestry of the individuals contemed 
is perfectly well knowiij both are incarnations of an Alchera spirit, 
and both independent beings in their own right; both owe their 
original existence to NnmbakulEa^ and theh present being to the 
initiative of the Kurtiim. Hence, there cannot exist any physicaJ, 
iiot to mention genitive, relationship between tliem. 

Owing, however, to die difference in the generations to which 
they neossarily belong, and because the particular woman of whom 
the child has b^n born usually, though not always, nurses and cares 
for it generally, tlie social arrangement is that the child shall call that 
woman * * mother *\ in thesamesense in which hecalls those women who 
belong to the same generation as his own mother by the same term, 
for socially, that is to say, in particular relation to their owti family 
group, the functions of these other women are precisely the same* 
Tlie critically important point which requires to be emphasised here 
is that “ modiethood is regarded as a purely social matter, and not 
as a biological one. The nature of the act of birth is in all its elements 
considered as somediing experientially and traditionally obligatory, 
it is the way in which a Ratappa enters the tribe, and that the Ratappa 
happens to come through the medium of a particular woman is, in 
this connection, due to no other virtue of that woman than that she 
usually belongs to a man, ihe Kimina of w^hose totemic ancestors dwell 
at a spot near which tins woman has passed, and at which one of them^ 
seeing that she was comely, immediately entered her- Any one of 
the man’s other wives might have fared equally as well or badly, 
depending upon w'hetber or not they already had a sufficient number 
of young to care for, and assuming that they w'ere sufficiently attractive. 

Once the child is delivered the chief function of the woman through 
whose medium it has passed into tlie tribe is to nurse it and attend to 
its wants generally until that time comes w*hen, at or shortly before 
puberty, the child departs from the family circle, and her parental 
duties are at an end* 

The actual phj'sical experience involved in giving birth to a child 
is so minimized, and the social implications of the result of the birth 
so magnified, that the former wilts away into the obscure background 
bcfoie the all-embradug consequences of the latter^ It must be 
noted in ibis connection that childbirtli among tlie Australians, as 


among many aboriginal peoples who are relatively immixed, is a 
comparatively light afTatr for the woinan, who is usiidly up and about 
her regular duties within a few hours after the delivery of the child,^ 
There is no period of confinement before the birth of the child, and 
there is no period of convalescence afterwards, so that the actual 
experience of birth is by no means the traumaccally impressive 
experience that it generally is for the white woman. Tltere is,, dierefore, 
no great adecr normally associated mth childbirth, nor is it in any way 
climactic, but it is cumulative, for it represents the culniination of a 
cycle of events all of which have been known and taken for granted 
for some months previous to the final event, and which, being known 
and taken for granted, have given rise to the expectation that a child 
will eventually make its appeatance through the medium of the woman 
in relation to whom the symptoms have been observed. With the 
appearance of the child, there is an end of the whole matter. 

This great lack of emphasis associated with childbirth tends, of 
course, to minimize any notion of the physical ties which might exist 
betnTen a particular woman and an individual who has been transmitted 
through her medium into the tribe. 

The inconsetpience of the part which the woman plays in pro¬ 
creation follows, of course, inevitably upon the whole system of 
beliefs according to which the native lives, for sexual conception as a 
result of the intercourse between men and women is a notion wliich 
has no place in that system of beliefs. There «, therejbre^ among the 
ArvTtta, an ignorance of physiological as well as an ignorance 

of physiological patermty. Tills is a point of the first importance, but 
one which seems to have been generally overlooked in tlie many 
discussions which have turned upon the procreative beliefs of the 
Australians. The truth seems to be that there is an ignorance of 
physiological or biological prentage altogether, and that, therefore, 

^ For the AuihDiitic& and the evidence |n ^uppoft of ifuse s^en>cnt9 for pHnUli^'e p^plei 
tn ^]en«Fal^ ?« Pios* and Band't chapter in h, L^ndofi, ifljfp entidrd " Ate Biithi 

Ea^r CjviU»d or Prtmjiive ? ", f For Austrdia^ see J. HoO^, On 

Oiild-^searing in AuxUaJia and New Zealand," EtknoL Soc., LondDfk,N.£, i, 71, 

in whidi Hooker gdvea the ^taEoncnti of a number af ilrsE hand observer! of he had 

made ir^quidei concecnicig the hen Kladng to labour and bitdL like vaiementB thua obtained 
almost si] a^TTc that labour la ahort and hirtK eatf amoni; tfirr Aostraliaos. Similar stalemcnti 
ane made by ObeHandcr, Dec Euk^chorenen der juEtnJiuhen KoLonje Vicrortap"^ 
iVp ifiSjp and 1 ^ E, Palmer, "Noiei on Some Aumalian Tribes," /wti. AmAroff, 

Ifut.i, iSSLij aSO. Similariyp EaitdoWp gives an xuouiif of labour and dcliTiKy as 
observed by himself ihc Lanekiya of the Pan Darwin diitrict, also indicates lhar Ubour 

li brief and binh caay, The evenip*" he wrtKSj is ftliUMi m^^Hably s^nianeau^ In my 
expenenoe I have vety ramly icen COmpljcatiofts^ and then usually wbea du in^ bad been 
lis-ing under dviLbed conditions" AmifaSaA AAon^jtiMl, Adelaide, 1 p ^)h Spencer and 
Gillen husx that ihere is rarely any cUfficuIi^-inchild-besnng arrwngthe Aninta. TU yfrtiwfs, ^$7* 



there can eiistj at most, only a reoogntrion of social paieotage. The 
distinction is, of course, a very real one, and not merely the result 
of a piece of casuistical reasoning. The Amnta, naturally, never have 
any occasion to make die distinctioTi for the reason that the conditions 
wherewith to make it have never arisen. Their ignorance of physio- 
iogical parentage does not represent a failure to recogntae certain 
conditions and relationships, nor does it constitute a positive rejection 
of such conditions and relationships, for these simply cither do not 
exist or are not allowed to exist in the universe which they have 
constructed, or rather that tradition has constructed for them. The 
pattern of the materials with which they have to huild necessarily 
determines the pattern of the resulting structure, and the resulting 
structure is from every point of view a perfecdy coherent and welL 
integrated edifice, within which and in relation to which everything 
functions with admiiable efficiency. 

With respect to the position of the father in relation to the child, 
from the conceptional standpoint this is naturally not less nor mote 
important than the mother's. Socially, however, the paternity which 
results from a child being bom into a man's family has the effect, 
owing to the far-reaching ramifications of the patriarclial organization 
of the horde or tribe, of giving a greater degree of meaning to the 
relationship between father and child than that which could exist 
between a mother and the child to whiclt she has given birth, for 
the fact is that it is socially much less her child than it is that of her 
husband, since it is a Koruna related to his own moiety which enters 
the proper moiety and class only because of that relationship, and 
not by virtue of any remote relationship that that Korutta may hiar 
to the mother, who, of course, is of anotlier moiety. It is always the 
father's moiety affiliation which determines the moiety affiliation of 
the child, die totems have nothing necessarily to do with the matter. 
The dominance of the father in regulating the early tribal being of the 
duld, together with the infruence of the gener^ afreet associated 
with his position in the family group, as well as the general dominance 
of the male over the female, is yet another of the foctors which serves 
to minimize the relationship between mother and child, and to ensure 
that a greater emphasis is placed upon the relationship involved in 
paternity. Naturally, these facts emphasize only the social relation¬ 
ship, and nodiing more, for that is all that they are calculated to 

At this point we may mm to the report of the Rev. C. Strehlow, 


a itiissiofiary who for many years was attached to the Lutheran Mission 
Station m the Western Macdonnell Ranges at Herraannsburg m Central 
Australia, and whose valuable monograph on the south-eastern 
Arunta ^ and Loritja has given rise to some controversy. The work, 
written in Hermannsburg, was transmitted in the form of notes to 
Germany where it was edited by Freiherr Moritz von Leonhardi, a 
fact which in many ways fortunate, stnce it served to seide a 
certain number of points which would otherwise have remained 
doubiJul^ It is necessary here to state that Sirelilow obtained almost 
all of his material from three or four native informants who were 
constant attendants at the Mission Station,^ and who w^re tlierefore 
somewhat acquainted with the teaching of Lutheran Christianity. 
The fac[ that Strehlow^s informants attended at the Mission does not 
constitute a reason for doubting either the value or the accuracy 
of the information obtained from them relating to the orthodox 
beliefs, yet upon this ground and in \dew of the following letter 
addressed by Sir Baldwin Spencer to Sir James Frazer the latter 
has declined to make use of Strehlow*s work. Spencer writes :— 

** For at least twenty years the Lutheran Missions have been 
teadiing the natives that al^snt means" god and that aU their ^red 
ceremonies, in lk:t even their ordinary corroborees, are wicked things. 
They have prohibited any being performed on the Mission station, 
and have endeavovued in every way to put a stop to tliem and to 
prevent the natives from attending them, and certainly they liave 
never seen one performed. Under these conditions it is not altogether 
surprising that when S. questions the natives he discovers that alijira 
means god, and gets very doubtful information in regard to all sacred 
or secret matters. .,. Not only have the [nissionaries for years past 
sternly rebuked the members of their flock (whose presence in 
church and school is an indispensable condition to participation in 
the distribution of flour, tobacco, etc*) for any inclination towards 
the heathen and deviUsh beliefs and practices of their parents, but they 
have actually attempted to break these down to the extent of marryt/tg 
hutiyUuaij of wrong groups. It is rather late for any one of them, 
ho^nsver well he may know the language, to attempt an investigation 
into sacred beliefs and customs/* “ 

Certainly information obtained from natives who have been exposed 
to Mission influences should be treated with some circumspection, 

^ QiLii^ de^E ebJea^ widi ihe southemf, icsntiaL, and northern ^^nnips. Cf. 

Afwwij, iif 

* Quotal in |. G. Traxci^ ToanKun 43ffd Mxifgstmjr, I Si-T^ 


but to disregard such informatjon alrogether neither fair 

nor wise, especially since there is now every reason to believe that 
Strehlow is on many points more iDeUable than Spencer and Gillen. 

Since Strehlow m^es no use of die term God in a theological 
sense, and since he has explained his usage of the term as having much 
tlie same meaning as th^t given by Spencer and Gillen for AlcfisraJ' 
there can be little objeciion to Strehlow^s imroduction of the term* 
though I think it would have been better to have retained die native 

In connection with certain fundamental points in their accounts 
Strehlow has been unable to confinu the statements of Spencer and 
Gillen, and as a consequence of diis there lias been a noticeable 
tendency in some quarters to damn his work for its unorthodox 
departure from the canon of Spencer and GUlen, it may therefore 
at once be said here that there is not the slightest i^on to believe 
that Streh low's report represents anythiag other than a perfectly 
dispassionate and unbiased account of what his informants themselves 
told him. In his foreword to Part 1 of StTehlow*^s work the editor, 
Leonhardi, writes ;—^ 

** In prime^'al times the totem-gods (altjirangsmitjbmy wandered 
about the land and finally entered the eardi, where they are believed 
to be living to this day* Their bodies were transformed into rocks, 
treesj bushesj or tjumnga stones and woods. The belief in an 
etemaUy repeated reincamation of these totem-gods which Spencer 
and Gillen thought to have found, Herr Strehlow has not been able 
to confirm. According to him, the manner in which children originate 
is conceived in various ways; either a ratapa which resides in the 
transformed body of tlie totem-god enters a passing woman—^uch 
children are supposed to he bom with narrow faces—or a totem 
ancestor comes out of ihe eartli, dirow^ a small (tjumnga) 

towards the woman, and this rtan^atmta is in her body transformed 
into a child, wliich will subsequently be horn with a broad face* 
Besides these two ways of coniing into being, a few natives related 
(and the old men finally admitted) that in rate cases a totem god 
himself may enter a woman and be reborn. But he can undergo such 
a rebirth only once. The children thus originating are said to have 
light hair. As a matter of feet Aranda with light hair are occasionally 
encountered. The totem god, who is believed to be related in one of 

^ dfrr Eirr^jf l^frtftJa-^iiUjfruTtt I/I ZMiToJ 'Gcsam- 

mdl voti CxfI ^fehJorw, BcsirbdterC Von MckUel Von Leonhif^p i, Jsn7i Ff^nkfort^ ^ 


the three ways mentioned, is called inbigukua^ and it is believed that he 
follows the human being as a sort of guardian spirit. In the third 
case, where the rebirth of the batigukua is assumed, the grandfather's 
totem’-god is said to assume the part of the guardian. The Loritja 
have, on the whole, the same views xci, 28 ^ ff., and 

xcii, 123). In the first of these articles in Ghhus (p. 289) it was 
mentioned dial a child may originate in the womb if the woman has 
seen an animal, or after she has partaken of a good amount of fruit. 
Wlien 1 requested a confirmauon of this, Herr Strehlow answered, 

‘ If a woman during Iter wanderings sees a kangaroo whidx suddenly 
disappears from Iter si^t, and if she feels die first indication of 
pregnancy at this moment, then a kangaroo rate^ has entered her, 
not the particular kangaroo itself, but rather a kangaroo ancestor 
in anincHl form. Or a woman may find lalitja fruits and feel sick 
after eating plentifully of tliem^ in that case a lalitja ratapa has 
entered her through her loins, not through her mouth. Bodi cases, 
dierefore, should be classed with the first method of coming into 
being, that is by the entry of a taiapa into a woman passing by a 
totem-place.’ As regards the Larrekiya tribe on the north coast, 
H. Basedow has recently published a similar account (Tranj. iSey- 
Sx. Souih AtistraU(t, xxxi, 1906, 4). In view of the importance 
attached to this problem, it would be of the greatest value (see also 
A. Lang in Anthropohgkai Eitays Prisented To £. B. Tylor, Oxford, 
1907, 217), if further investigations could be made among the Larre- 
kiya and the neighbouring tribes. Concerning the t/urunga we 
merely wish to mention that St is regarded as the ’ secret body ’ 
[verhorgeni Ltiir] of the totemic ancestor as well as the body of a 
definite human being; it forms the connecting link between a human 
being and his iamgtihia. At die same time the ijunmga is magically 
related to a totemic animal or plant, the increase of which by means 
of totemic oeremonies is thereby made possible. Also concerning the 
tjuranga the views of the Loriqa are fundamentally tlie same, though 
with characteristic differences in detail. They call the tjunmga 
‘body picture ' [3iU Jes lAies] (Loriqa; Kimianka), a name 
which must not considered as at all symbolic. I shall not enter 
into further details here since the matter will be fully treated of later, 
and shall simply add that the Aranda as well as the Loritja definitely 
refused to regard the ^unmga as the seat of the soul or the life of a 
particular human being. This point lias been made quite clear by 
die old men and by the medidne-men. Designations like * SeeUnAoli ’ 


or Soul-box \ etc., cnnnoE,^ therefore, be applied to the of 

the Aranda and Loritja,’- ^ 

We may now tum to Strehlow* Following an aocount of the 
’w^derings of the totemic ancestors of the Amnta essentially tlie same 
as diat given by Spencer and Gillen^ Strdtlow goes on to say that: 

. Their botUeSj however, were transfonned into rocks, 
trees, shrubs* Some totem-gods are assumed to have entered a water- 
hole, etc,, and are believed to be there to this day* In these rocks 
and trees, representing the transformed bodies of the ancestors, and 
especially in the mistletoe growing upon such m;es, but also in water 
abounding in fish and similar places^ live the unborn children, raiapa^ 
or spirit children* But not only the whole body, but also parts of the 
body of the totem-gods Ixave E>ecome or turned into tjurwign ; thus, 
for example, an eagle totem ancestor lost a long feather (rjiifungeraka) 
which now forms a spedal totem : a/Az&* On die other hand, 

the body of an cUmarinija woman was transformed into a inima bush 
from which sap has flowed out and was congealed at the bark. This 
fnima sap forms the totem tnimjjm&a* The totem of die kangaroo fat 
is of the same character* The fat of a kangaroo totem^od is likewise 
a^urufigsraka^ and so on* Very many totem-gods were transformed 
into tjurung^^ which are now kept in the sacred stone caves* During 
their wanderings they lost some of the ijuru/tga which tliev carried 
about witlx them* These ^urunga were transformed into trees^j rocks, 
etc*, from, which rai^pa also originate* These are fully developed 
boys and girls of a reddish complexion, they possess body and soul- 
Ordinary mortals cannot see them, but the raedicinc-men maintain 
that they are able to do so. According ag the particular totem-god 
from whose transformed body a raiapa originates is related to a definite 
natuta] object, the taiapa is likewise related to this object. In the 
gum-iiee into which die body of a kangaroo ancestor (ara) has been 
transformed, a kangaroo rampa resides. Likewise an opossum (tmira) 
ratijpa resides in a tree which repteseuts the body of an opossuiri 
ancestor* (It is to be noted that in each tree, mistletoe ^prig, or rock, 
etc., only one ratapa resides-) In water-holes abounding in fish ajre 
situated die totem centres of numerous fish ancestors who have entered 
the earth iliere* In some s^ases the totem-gods are not related to any 
natural objects, but are themselves designated as totems, such as the 
ratapa and totem- Since die Aranda arc ignorant of the part that 

1 fysm unnumbewd), Myi^, Sagm WMiinrAw Ju unJL,niia 

St^mnu m Gsamnl^ von CaH SurtlilDlAr, Beirbeuct vofl Merin Voa 

LeCJimi^ I, Fiankforr 


the nun plays in procreation, the origin of human diildien is Explaineii 
in ilie various ways decribed below. Sexual cohabitation is considered 
merely as a pleasure. I have not been able to confirm Spencer and 
Gillen's statement that it represents a sort of prepamdon for concep¬ 
tion. 1 have been assured, by the way, that the old men are well aware 
that cohabitation is the cause of conception, but that they do not 
tell this to the young men and women. It is certain tlut the Aranda 
as well as the Loritfa know the connection between intercourse and 
birth in animals, even children are taught that. 

" If a woman passes a place in which the transformed body of an 
ancestor resides—-such a place is called knanaktila —-the ratapa tliat 
lias been looking out for her and has rccogniJKd in her his class mother, 
enters her body through her loins, a process which causes sickness and 
quickening. When the child is horn it belongs, as has been stated, 
10 the totem of the totem-god in question. If the woman, for example, 
has passed an emu icnaaoksia and has there noticed the first indication 
of pregnancy, an emu ratapa has entered her, so that the child 
will belong to the emu totem and will receive a name connected 
with that totem, such as Iliakurka (small emu), or Iliapa (emu 
feather).” » 

" Thus, the Aranda assume that there are two ways in which children 
may originate. Either a fiilly developed boy or girl enters a passing 
woman fix>m a mistletoe sprig, rock, fissure, etc., or a totem ancestor 
throws his nantatma towards a woman which then assumes tile form 
of a child within the woman’s womh. Both ways are said to be equally 
frequent. That a child has entered the mother in die first described way 
^ be recogn^d by the fact that it has been bom with a narrow face, 
in tlie alternative case the child will be bom with a broad face.” ® 

But in addition to the two ways mentioned, there is another and 
rater way in which children may originate, Thar is to say, the mingahia 
may first throw his Ttamattoia towards the woman and then enter her 
himself, and dius he reborn. The children thus origiiiadng are said 
to be bom with light liair. This more uncommon way of coming 
into being was told me by certain natives j but the old men from whom 
I have received most information about the beliefs and legends of 
the Aranda denied this. However, when the natives who bad told 
me abou t the origin of light-haired <^ildren according to the foregoing 
account persisted b their statement, the old men admitted that in 
tare cases the ittingukita himself really entered women m order to be 

‘ ity., i»-j. »ihj<L, 


tcbom, Tlie soul of an iiunguhia reborn as a human bdng goes, 
after his death, like that of all other human beings, to the island of 
the dead, and there awaits its final annihilaeion by a stroke of liglitning. 
A repeated reincarnation of a totem-god never takes place* * 

“ Tile Loritja hold the same views as the Aranda concerning the 
way in which cliildren originate. Either an aratapi enters tlie woman 
or a totem ancestor comes out of the cardi and throws his tjurunga 
towards her, which within the woman changes into a child. The 
Loritja say tliai the latter method is the more usual.” - 

" In rare cases the totem of a person may be uncertain. Concerning 
a woman who lives in Hcrmannsbvtxg an old man maintains that she 

‘ Ihii, Jfi, Lwmhinli't noit: " StirWow liM Pot W abU m mlHCantiw Spenm and 
Gillen's Mnceming lIu Aranda and fitlghbourii^ tribes ddnlisdy cfeclinM 

lhai aU chikl™ are dfeC inncamiKtiufM of lot™ anodtarv and diM ilieir mliLs ^ cnnrinU4tliy 
reborn, I comap^id with him about th« raartcr on various occaskm*, (SreCj&Auj, 

Areording »Ills inveifagatiofti such a bdicF Is IKh so be found iiraong die and Lo^a 

whom br queMIOfied; be ibinfcs iku it would be ^rely in np^lion In ibe brljeft ^nbng 
m which ihjc tnicffl-godi are to be ^ll tivifig on earth, ffl ihc csccpdo^ C3.*es ifl 

’frhich £i tonm»-aiKesfOr himself K to be lehanv only tt never * repcaDcd Inramation- 

tako place, Sir^hlow things diat he murt il» cooindkl reLncamatlcm ibeo^ ^Tcnhintd to the 
AiareL living inu'anii iJiv cW «lal«t by Spenctr and Cilkru 1 ihoiild like to poml out 
hcie that * ihc rtinomdon of sneesrara ' reponed by Spenocr and Glilcn aa lllc grtteral 
ndy belief of the Airanda and tfie odwr tribo trtvrto^cd by them IS J| di^Krtanort 
dccidedlv i^nnot be applied tn a nUhibcf of eunipla given by ibe aUthofS- It one ^Kn lEie 
Dcpretthin lEwraUy^ a^ one doubtlea is intended to do In most c»eS| it can miiy^ undmiaod 
ta mean dial ihe Mitlcubr tOlem jmatstor hifDsdf ij rebom agpiin and agaiii- Dui dwt is Mt 
at ail comparibic widi all the bdiefs reported for the diffieioit tribes ; foT Gujnph, i»[for 
the UrabLumi AcoOPcling m Spencer and Gillen only a few pnccstare warKtered about die 
l/rabuftna lerritoTv. From ibeif bcxHes the fftrif chUdrmi cmatw^ted. lu vanoui cemn^ 
from Ibttfi spirii childmi artiSc ihe iinthimart who a noc dial time havc 1^ ooflh^y 

ixbom (AWl. 14S). ^mllar bdUeb am reported for the ILaitidl and lheUnrtJi%raOhimi 

lctf-7, xi^Sn.). 'rtw lomc diin^ bolds rme for the Watmmiinf^a pbld.^ l*t). Surely in 
such one Esumol tpesk. of tiie reblrfH of locctn anomtors aflcestorij but Oftly 

ofa rdneafrarion of the ipfrir dhJd™ s^hkh origioally cntaMied 1™ thcoi. For ^ totem 
Ancestors are in -cefouii erect ddlnicdy regaidcd as Still LLvingp lA, for exampICT ^ walfunga 
of the W^uremimga. But alsD among ihc Aranda the asaumed general rancumnoon 
l^c^rv' ii not compatible widi alJ the reporei^ evidence i for instance,, in not w ^these CMea 
vhcre Ws are told that tbe ancestors c^ed about ^itb them on ibclr wjndcringa many 
nufUTigOi (not only ibdr aWu% and diat spirit duldren ^nana^cd ffpm ibowS IcMl on |bc 
(Nant. TriA.r lio). Likewise diflf beMtfe that toKm-anccstore Still live, for osireptc, in a 
watct'heile CAfm. 4 ^) is incompatible wilh ibc assumed germ! tbeOfy. Very uitmesting 
are the repOTO cf (L H. ^tilhews {Pfoc. Sk. Qumd, iW, 

the b^el in incamaiion or zeuKarlUEion of tbc Cldo^alee Spenm Glli^h 

The varibiusubdivbiom of iMs tribe seem w disagree a good deal in tbdrbdwEa- One 
bdievci in the repeated reinouawian of the aneestor^ in whldi ok the m ch+ui™ each ttine 
BQCtly as amonA the- Urabumra aooofdim! to Spenuer and Gillc[i(re?H'iA_ jnA,f IiIaJ-p In a CBffO 
oTtbe Kwmmioc sudt U efumge of sn does not c^f, llw of wgim iwC 
hdna reiiicamatDd at all, Tbis bcUcflf fotithd flho iinionR tJle Gnanji (JVbrfA TriA.■:»> 1 1™*Vi 
ibe nonbern Chinj^ke do not bebeve in rdocnnunon at all, for in ddl mre it IS an 
new ipirit child that cmanalH &om a rock or tree and Is bortl » After deato 

die toul wmdem about for ^mc time and then goes tiotthwartL This bdw would come ^mte 
doSe to that of ibe Aranda Os- rtponed by StrefuoWi If these reptlTO uf MmH^"s are eoricct, 
Ihcy Tirould pmve ihM ™y diffeimt bdkei tan txlit i3de by rid* in a «i«lc mbe In my ax, 
,e*onlmn Id i^lut tn* been said above, Spenerr and Cilfen's stalEmeoi dut ^lO every tnEie 
without: arcepcioTi there eiisia a firm bdief in the nancarmuon of oACesion ^ soanSi to me 

* Ibid/ii,6o. 


belongs co the totem of the wind, wliile her own husband says that 
she is a trdma woman.” ‘ 

In the introducdon to Parc HI of Sttelilow's work Leonliardi makes 
the following interesting remarks:— 

“ Pater W. Schmidt in his uiteresting article Die Stellung der 
Aranda uTiierderiavistralischcnStatnmenj” 2 ’eif./I^fAo/.j 1908,ff.) 
has made a number of criticisms of Strehlow's report. On page 7, 
note of the present work^ Strehlow has attempted once more to 
clarify the razapa theory, that is, the confusion which has arisen from 
the fact that a totem-god in the form of an hanguhai accompanies, 
as a guardian, not only the human being whose ratapa has emanated 
from the tree, rock, or tjurwiga-f into which the body of the same 
totem ancestors was transformed, but also those human beings whose 
ratapa originate from the tjarui^a which the altytran gamitjka merely 
carried about with them and left behind in various places ; this doubt 
does not seem to have been felt by the Aranda. Either the power of 
their logical thought does not extend so far, or, what seems more 
probable to me, they disregard this uncomfortable inconsistency. 
Schmidt is mistaken in attributing to the Aranda a two-soul dieory. 
As far as cart be ascertained, only one soul is recognized, the gufuna, 
whiclt after death is called the izanmut. Iztiitffuim is not in ^y way 
a totem spirit. Schmidt's most serious objection to Strehlow s state¬ 
ments refers to his remarks on the connection between cohabitation 
and conception j lie objects primarily to the statement, 1 have b^n 
assured, by die way, that the old men are well aware that cohabitation 
is the cause of conception, but they do not tell this to the young men 
and women/ The statement is certainly not very aptly expressed- 
I understood it to mean, and Strehlow subsequently confirmed my 
opinion as correct, that the old men continue to teach the orthodox 
ratapa dogma to the young people, but tliat they themselves, or, at 
least, some among them, have arrived at a more rational view. But 
they conceal this, if for no other reason than that dieir itiHuence and 
piestige would suffer if the old doctrine were undermined. It may 
be left undecided whether die particular h\arihata have of dieir own 
accord found the correct connection between intercourse and birth, 
or whether the influence of the whites has made itself felt here. 

" Tiiere is no valid reason for denying to the old Aranda men the 
credit for having found the connection between coitus and birth 
since they recognize this connection in animals. Likewise, it is certain 

1 Ibid^ IJ. 



—and in this I agree entirely with Lang and with Schmidt—that it is 
not primitive ignorance which lies at the root of the conceptionalism 
of the Central Australians. It is rather the teaching about the totemic 
ancestors and their transformation into trees, rocks, and tjurunga, 
as well as about the ratapa^ that has led to such ardhcial conceptions. 
This opinion of mine has not been sliaken by the statement of Fr, von 
Reitaenstein (Z«'t, Mihiml-y 1909, 644 ff.) who attempts to prove 
that the aforementioned belief of the Aranda and other Australian 
tribes goes back to the earliest times of mankind- To me it is certain 
that it is definitely established that the natural causal connection 
between intercourse and conccpdon is unequivocally recognized, 
Reitzenstein passes this fact over somewhat too lightly. The other 
reason that has been adduced for the primlHveness of this belief, the 
ignorance of the nature of conception, namely that cohabitation ts 
merely regarded as a pleasure, must be discarded, for Strelilow 
found that he was mistaken In this, Spencer and Gillen were 
right in reporting (JVor. Zrii., that intercourse is regarded as a 
kind of preparation of the mother for concepdon, I confess that 1 felt 
some doubt concerning diis point in Strehlow's report, Tliis doubt, 
which [ imparted 10 him, following a perusal of Schmidt’s article, 
induced Strehlow to Inquire into the matter once more- Tlie result 
was to establish the fact that according to the Aranda as well as the 
Loritja, it is only by means of the sexual act that the woman’s w'Omb 
is put into a condidon enabling It to receive a tatapa. The womb 
must be prepared for it; without preceding coitus die womb remains 
closed, Uha worroftta^ This also bolds true for birth out of as well as 
in wedlock. Strehlow's statements about the connection between the 
eating of certain foods and concepdon stlU remain obscure to me. 
These beliefs do not seem to be compatible with die remainder of the 
ratapa theory. I have the impression that these beliefs have entered 
from a foreign source and have merely been superficially anutlgamated. 
From Easedow’s definite reports about the tribes of the Northern 
Territory w'fl know tliat there the view is held ‘ ... if a man, when 
out hunting kills an animal or collects any other article of diet, he 
gives it to his ^ who must eat it, believing tliat the respective object 
brings about the successful birch of a piccaninny. In other words, 
conception is not regarded as the di^t result of cohabitation’. 
{Tfaa. Rey, Sx. South Atistral.y xxxl, 1907, 4,) J. G. Frazer 
has briefly noticed (JWan, 1909, No. 3d), according to the information 
of the Rev. C, M. Morrison, that in the tribes in the Cairns District, 


of North Queensland, * . . . the acceptance of food from a man 
by a woman was not merely regarded as a marriage ceremony, 
but as the actual cause of conception/ This is, however, merely a 
brief note, and as far as it goes indicates that among these tribes the 
eadng of certain foods is considered the cause of conception/' ^ 

Tlie most important points in Strehlow's account and tn Leonhardi’s 
commentary will be di^ssed here in the order of their occunence. 

First, with respect to the totem ancestors or altjirangajnitjbmr 
Thcse arc consistently spoken of by Strehtow as “ totem-gods 
This requires explanation. The origin of the attachment of this 
meaning to the native term is given in a letter to Spencer and Gillen 
from the pen of the senior missionary at Hermannsburg, the Rev. H. 
Kempe. The letter was written in 1910. 

“ As regards the word ‘ Abjira ’ in the language of the natives of 
Central Australia, I beg to tell you that, so fares I know the language, 
it is not ‘ God' in that sense in whici) we use the word—namely, 
as a personal being—^but it has a meaning of old, very old, something 
that has no origin, mysterious, something that lias always been so, 
also, always. Were Almira an active being, diey would have answered 
‘ Al^irala '; the syllable' & ’ is always added when a person exercises 
a will (force) which influences another being or thing. We have 
adopted the word ‘ God ' because we could find no better and because 
it comes nearest to the idea of* eternalThe people through the usage 
of a word often use it as a name for a person. This, according to my 
conviction, is the true meaning of ihe word Alt/ira**^ 

Tlie meaning of the native term as given here by Kempe is almost 
identical with that given to it in 1899 by Spencer and Gillen, w'ho briefly 
defined it as the dim past It is quite clear then, that for tottm-g^ 
we should read Akhtra amcestoT^ The fact is that the Australians 
have no gods. 

Second, the statement that the Alchera ancestors were changed into 
Churinga which pass as their transformed bodies, and that many of 
them were directly transformed into rocks, trees, etc., is hardly in 
agreement with Spencer and Gillen’s statement that according to the 
Achilp tradition it is held that Numbakulla first made the Kuruna 
and afterwards the OmringaA Spencer writes, “ As we pointed out 

^ Tbid.^ in^ X-kiu. 

* Accocdlrig to Spencer thii ahaLild be as iwi^r and mif/ina. 


* Ibbd, 19^, 

* TA# Nath'a ef Camrai Auiirafta^ 

* TAt j4niftta, li, tKj. 



many ycai^ ago, the cotinectton between a rnan and his Chuiinga 
and totemic animal or plant is very indmate, but, so far as we have been 
able to study the matter, and after very careful and minuce invesdgia- 
dons amongst natives whilst they were actually performing ceremonies 
in connecdon with which hundreds of Churinga were used, we have 
never heard the Churinga referred to as the common body of a man 
and his totem, " ^ Nor, as Spencer writes in this connecdon," According, 
also, to all the traditions of die natives, as told to us, no animal, plant, 
or human being ever actually became changed into a Churinga, 
nor did any human being become changed into a tree or stone. Tlie 
latter arose to mark the spot at which the ancestor went into the ground 
—^thai is, died." * 

Yet, we may remark, it is none the less probable that the connecdon 
between the Churinga and the body of the totem ancestor exists. 

Since tliere h very good reason to believe that Strehlow's represents 
the more accurate account of the nadve beliefs it will be necessary 
to devote some space here to the consideration of the various con¬ 
tradictions and discrcpand« in their respeedve accounts with a view 
to clarifying the issues involved. 

It may at once be stated that if we liad no other evidence than that 
provided by these writers, namely, Spencer and Gillen and StnehJow, 
it would upon the basis of their respective contribudons render the 
whole picture a far more coherent one if we accepted Strehlow's 
statement of nadve belief iliac when many of the totem ancestors 
entered the ground dieir bodies died and were iransfirm^d into some 
natural feature which now marks the spot upon which they made their 
last appearance upon earth. Spencer has denied any knowledge 
of transformation. " His [the totem ancestor's] body died, but some 
natural feature, such as a rock or tree, arose to mark the spot, while 
his spirit remained in the Churinga."^ However, in the Tt'ariety of 
traditions relating to the Churinga which Strehlow gives, the Churinga 
in every case represents the transformed body of a totem ancestor 
with which a spirit is In no way identified, excepting that spirit cluldren 
are believed to live in the totemic centres from which the various 
Churinga ori^nated, and with which the Churinga are associated. 

Actually Spencer and Gillen have themselves provided evidence 
of the existence of such a belief in their account of the tradition relating 
to the Churinga Twanyirrika whicli we have given on pages 60-1, 

■ Dtid. 

> DiuL 


ai any rate, as far the relation between totem-ceiitre and ChuHnga 
is concerned* ^ 

Spencer and Gilicn themselves state that in the Alchera large 
numbers of Choringa were deposited in the earth and that at these 
spots arose those natural features or Knmja in which the spirit 
children cook up their abode, if, as we could easily do, in spite of 
Spencer’s negative evidence, we interpreted this to mean that where 
the Chutinga were deposited there they were transformed into these 
natural features we would then have an account of native belief in all 
essentials agreeing with that given both by Spencer and Gillen and 
by Strehlow. We would then have a common source for these natural 
features, the Knonja and die Churinga, the one being convertible into 
the other, the K/wn^a being dre transformed bodies of the totem ances¬ 
tors of their Chutinga, and the existing Churinga representing either 
a part or the whole of the transformed bodies of similar totem ancestors. 
Since every Churinga is associated with some definite totem, and every 
Knartja is likewise associated with a definite totem, and since these 
merely represent the transformed bodies of totem ancestors, an 
indi\^dual can derive his body only from such sources, his spirit 
must originate from some other source. This source is almost always 
the Knanja in W'hich the spirits have their abode. Spirits do not have 
their ab<^es in Cliuringa but only Ui lOwtJa according to Strehlowj 
whereas according to Spencer and Gillen they would appear to have 
their abodes in both. Tliere would be no great point to the diarion 
of the many contradictions in which Spencer and Gillen have involved 
themselves in this connection, we need only cite that statement of 
Spencer and Gillen in which it is clearly shown that the Churinga is 
not regarded by the Arunta as the abode of the Kuruna* They write:— 

" We meet in tradirion with unmistakable traces of the idea that 
the Churinga k the dwelling-place of the spirit of the Alchera ancestor. 
The AchiJpa belief is that the Kuruna or spirits were first made by 
Numbakulla, and, later, a Churinga for each one of them- One tradition 
relates that, when the AchiJpa men were out hunting, they erected a 
sacred pole or NurttmJaj that they ^^irried with them during their 
wanderings, and on this hung their Churinga and placed tlteir spirit 
parts in them for safe keeping, taking them down when they returned 
to camp, Wtulst this is so in regard to Alchera tradition, it must be 
pointed out clearly that the Arunta native, at the present day, does not 
regard the Churinga as the abode of his own spirit part, pl^ed in the 



Pertalchera for though at the same time it is intimately associated 
t^ith himself, and more especially with his Afumiaringay which is 
really the twin double of his own Kafuna^ and the half of the original 
Kunma of his Alchesa ancestor. If anything happens to it—if it be 
stolen—he mourns over it deeply, and has a vague idea that some ill 
may befall hina, but he does not imagine that damage to the Churinga 
of necessity means destruction to himself. The value of the Churinga 
lies in the fact that each one is intimately associated with, and is. 
indeed, the representative of, one of the Alchera ancestors, with 
the attributes of which it is endowed. It is also felt that the 
AnunhiiTingay which spends much of its time in and around the 
Pifialchera, in which the Churinga is kept, may follow it, and thus 
the individual will lose the guardianship of the spirit.” ' 

With this statement the fact may be regarded as settled that the 
Churinga is not among the Aiunta regarded as the abode of the spirit. 

What meaning the statement may have that ” The value of the 
Churinga lies in the fact that each one is intimately associated with, 
and is, indeed, the representative of, one of the Alchera ancestors, 
with the attributes of which it is endowed ”, it ts difficult to Imagine 
in view of Spencer's later denials, unless it is a^umed to mean what 
it is obviously intended to mean, namely, that the Churinga represents 
an Aldiera ancestor, in which case it is difficult to avoid the conclusion 
that the Churinga is actually regarded as the transformed body of 
the ancestor,^ which, of course, is precisely the explanation which 
Strehlow obtained from his informants. 

Spencer and Gillen's difficulty was one that would easily arise 
out of the nature of the facts themselves. There is no doubt that a 
spirit is in a certain manner associated with a Churinga, hut it is not 
necessarily an tndimte part of the Churinga, just as the spirits inhabiting 
HjUMRja are not an Intimate part of the Knattja though diey are closely 
associated with it, they are all separate and distinct things. In other 
words, a definite distinction Is made and recognized to exist between 
Kumna associated with transformed totem ancestors, Knanja and 

^ tbtxL^ z 11-1 1. 

* Thia visw it supportjftl by Rabeifu'i £v«tyihing thar in Arwdn ii ciw<ielW 

on El pati^m- TTwfc it nothii^ new imdcT dkt I 4 in J m OnJy doinA wbai ttifemk aflcttwn 
did oi dw dli%-n ibc woikL They a« the ctmml oiib of diEarnSj for ell mytba arts dream*, 
and, U *«, some diPeuii^ ^re rziythfir Nov fhc' toii^aiiic jehray* end diieir day* by 

going inio die ortb and becamiog Akiiringa. 

Hdwcict, eidiotigh bceoming^ ifKsnt it Cncims something beudo^ 

Nev life fpjtHHl feflh from diw iM USodo, and it ii from thesf xhai tl* raiapa {unborn 

EHibies) swinn fortb ani enper the wombi of vum^ ** w-, 


From the evidence aN’ailable to us it is not quite clear why Knanja 
should be so much more closdy associated with Ktirutvi than Churinga, 
but theie aie doubtless good enough reasons, even if we have not been 
made aware of them. On the face of the evidence it would appear that 
those totem ancestors who were transformed into Churinga are 
specially characterized hy the fact that no Kunma reside within 
them, and that only those totem ancestors and Churinga which were 
transformed into ^ions naruial objects are characterized by the fact 
that a certain number of Kumoa have taken up thetr abode within 
them, depending upon the number of Churinga originally depmited. 
That a pattitailar Churinga is associaied with a definite child is, 
of course, known by the fact that its Kutututf that is, the child s spirit 
part, was derived from a definite Kmmja animal, food, or what not; 
the manner in which the exaa Churinga is deteriained has already 
been made clear. 

We have already seen that according to Spencer and Gillen’s 
account we are led to infer that the Ktintna represents the corporeal 
as well as the spiritual part of an Alchera being, although we could 
not be quite certain upon this point. It would now seem more likely 
that the body is believed to be derived from the tiansfonned totem 
ancestor, wheiher Knanja or Churinga, and that the Kuruna is derived 
from any one of the souioes we have seen to exist. This is a view 
whidi is afforded some support by the findings of H, K, Fry who has 
recently conducted some illiiminating investigations among the tribes 
closely neighbouring upon the Atunia, namely the Luritja and Ptntubi 

" The native belief , - . writes Fry, “ provides for the identifica- 
tion of his body with that of his totem ancestor, either in the form of a 
familiar spirit inhabiting a totem place, or in tbe form of a tjumtui 
representing the transfornied bodies of the totem-ancestors of his 
mother and himself." ^ 

“ The spirit part of a man, kurwi-karttn (Pintuhi), the equivalent 
of the Aranda kurutut, was stated by my Pintubi and Luntja informants 
to have nothing to do with the totems and tjttruna. They said that the 
kurun-kurun was formed in the berries (noera, Luritja, diungttrhma^ 
Pintubi) of the mistletoe {rtatarf^rd^ Luritja, nd^iJamnpa, Pintubi), 
and then hangs down from the leaves of the mistletoe. When a 
pregnant woman passes, the kurun-hufSia goes in. When a man dies 
his ktimn-kuruA goes west to a big water (wa/eia, Luritja, apinti, 

* H. K. Fry',"Bodj'indSool,” 0tKPiKr,iii,i9jj, 111. 



PLntubi; translated by my interpreter as * the sea; it goes into the 
water —* finish.' ” ^ 

With such a belief it is easily understood how an individual may 
represent the incarnation of a totem ancestor and yet be the possessor 
of a Kuiwia which is of entirely separate origin and as likely as not 
entirely new, for the individual derives his body alone from the totem 
ancestor, whereas his spirit is derived from a separate source, and at 
death tlie spirit is “ finish 

Sucli views arc not in liarmony with those stated by Spencer and 
Gillen for the Arunta who, according to them, believe that the spirit 
is derived from an ancestral source and that it is eternal, undergoing 
repeated remcamation, whereas the body undergoes disintegration 
at death. 

It is of interest here to note that Miss Olive Pink who has recently 
been engaged in field work among the Arunta, found that the natives, 
when questioned upon the matter denied any knowledge of a belief 
in continuous or repeated reincarnation. Site writes t— 

*' I should state that 1 found no evidence to show that the aborigines 
believed in reincarnation except in so far as the spirits of babies and 
very young children who die are concerned. These are said to be born 
again through the same mothers. But my informants, both sophb dcated 
and unsophisticated, alone or in groups, emphatically deni^ it. The 
unsophisticated said a man * jfmjAeif altogethir ’ when he died; his 
body disintegrated and his spirit went away to the 'salt-water' 
(or as some said, into ‘ a cold country undergroundwhere they 
lived the same lives as blackfellows used to do, in so far as performing 
ceremonies, etc., are concerned. I then explained what was supposed 
to be their belief, namely continuous reincarnation; they retorted 
' chat white fellow talk*—-not blackfellow *. When I persisted, as I did, 
going back and back to the same subject on many occasions to see 
whether they would contradict what they had said either unknowingly 
or by implication, they said that the baby-spirit which a woman 
' found' at the time of quickening was a new one, not that of some, 
previously deceased, adult blackfellow.” ® 

These findings fully corroborate those of Strehlow and of other 
more recent workers among the Arunta and neighbouring tribes, 
and clearly lend no support to the account of these matters as given by 
Spencer and Gillen. 

■ O. PLnk^ “ Tlif LanJiiwiKti In tht Nanism Divuipn of iJjt Ajandi Tribe^ Centrj3 
AitatraJiat" OcdsmUj vS^ 1SS-9. 


Here it imy be mentioned that the belief that the soul goes either 
to an island of the dead or to some water re^oti after death where it 
dwells permanently or sojourns for some time is widespread through¬ 
out Australia.* Apart from Strehlow’s reprt the belief in the destruc¬ 
tion of the soul by lightning eitlier among the Arunta or among other 
Australian tribes has not been reported by other investigators, Tlic 
soul or spirit is said either to go and Hv^ by the shores of a lake or 
sea ^ or to enter it and “ finish “ or to return after a while to undergo 
reincarnation.^ It is, of course, quite possible that a variety of beliefs 
of this hind may e.\ist within the same tribe and perhaps horde, and 
it may be that the diderences in the reports of these beliefs are due 
to this cause, Spencer’s vigorous denial of Stichlow’s statement is 
hardly to the point. Spencer writes, ** So far as our own investiga¬ 
tions are concerned, this is al^oluicly at variance with the fundamenral 
beliefs of the Arunta people. Tltcre Is no such thing as the destruction 
of the soul by lightning. The Kumna of each Alchcra ancestor splits 
into two, gi^'^ng rise to a new Kuruna w-hich continually undergoes 
rdnearnation, and an Aiwn&urmga dial is everlasting.” ^ 

Clearly a belief in the destruction of the soul after death would 
appear to be quite inco mpatible with a belief in continuous or repeated 
reincamarion of the soul, but before continuing our discussion of this 
matter we may proceed with the discussion of the subject of body 
and soul. 

Spencer and Gillen in their accounts of the spirit beliefs state quite 
clearly that only Kufuoa^ that is, spirits, inhabit Ahofyu, but that when a 
Kurma enters a wom an it is known as a Ratappa ; thus, they write, 
“ The term E^iti^pa is not, strictly speaking, applied to a * spirit child'. 
The spirit is always spoken of as a Kuruaa, and it is only after enterii^ 
the mother tliat it gives rise to a Ratt^pa. Even at the Ratappa-^toas^ 

' D. CoUmigi ^4 ^ictMHiiir vf EngUik in JVw Stmtk 3 

t Lift £r Auitrs^ snL Ntw Zfo/ont^ ^ vdIs., loft; 

Ql WiHielmi, - ^ XCsniKTs luiil Custonu af ifu ALtstEaLiAri Nsdves^'^ Trofu. Ray. Sx. 

V, tS6r, i 83 -^E € 3 * Tactii^ TA# ^ tA# 

.4u££n3£4wi Aoebi^ 187^, iEt fS; C, W, Ttte A^iginal Tdbea of 

Port Lincoln ", in Woodt> L/aiwt ^South l8?9> l A. W. FTowia^ 

Nairvt Tnhii isf Souih^Eait AuttraFaf London, 1^04, 414-446; R. IL Maihcws, 
E^hfK>^o^^K^sI Nott^, *905^ F 343- 

* E. Eyinuuauj for cx^mpb, fiaie* ih« tike Weiterp Arunta bellevt tlwi the »iiJ j;ort north 

aher it lives for u litCc on the ihotcs of a ^tcac IbIcc. Dit ^Ler K^oaU 

SiidatifiraSm^ Berlin, 1908, 1^9. 

* fL K, Fry, *' Etody md Soiit," loc cil-* : O. Fink., lot dL| 185. 

^ Thu5 FlVin ^-dtes of KrtdE of th« Daflipur Land nibel who bdirvo io mncamaldoii that 

Durif^ the periods between inenrn^on, dlE spirit at one af the spirit-cencneSy 

spirits, boWirt’Ers fWS idncafitaterL they are Eud to go (o Lomar, from whetltt ihcrtr k 
no <A. P. Elkin^ Toumlim iti Nonb-Westem AiutraJia,^ Osm£a, iii^ 43?)- 

* Tkt Afurm, y83. 


so called because a small child went into the ground there, it is a 
Kuruna and not a Ratappa that enters a woman. The term Kuturta 
is always used in reference to the spirit itself, either before it enters the 
mother or after it leaves the body.” ^ 

The term Satsppa ts also used for a child within the worah of the 
mother or a new-born baby. Hence it is clear that whatever a Ratappa 
may be it is not merely a AWivw:, but a Kumtia to wluch something 
else has been added, that is a body. This would suggest that the 
separate origin of the body and spirit is recognized, but, as we have 
already seen, Spencer and Gillen's statements would appear to mean 
that the Kunina is already possessed of a body at the time when it 
enters the woman's womb. “ The kuruna is described as being very 
small, round, like a very little pebble, and red in colour. It is shapeless 
and lias neirfier arms nor legs nor head, but develops these witliin 
the mother and gives rise to a Itatappa"^ But these words may just 
as well alternatively be taken to mean that a Kuruna is recogniaed 
to be a spirit only and not to be possessed of a body. “ Tks tnherka-i 
that is, the body, Spencer and Gillen have written “ is supposed to be 
formed later when the Kuruna., having left the Churinga, enters a 
woman May it not be that tn the existence of these terms, Kunma 
and Raiappa, we have evidence of the recognition of the distinct and 
separate origin of the spirit and body ? Tliat the Kuruna is spirit 
pure and simple, and the Ratappa spirit plua body ? And that, to 
repeat, the body is believed to be derived from a source other than 
that from which the spirit is derived ? Certainly it is so according to 
Fry’s Luritja and Pintubi, but they, it should be remembered, are not 
Arunta. Strehlow renders confusion worse confounded by speaking 
at times of guruna as meaning soul or spirit, and ratapu as meaning 
spirit-child in the sense in which Spencer and Gillen use this term; 
at other rimes Strehlow uses the terms guruna and ratapa interchange¬ 
ably and with etjui valent meanings. Moreover, according to Strehlow, 
it is the ratapa which reside in or are associated with the Knarya 
the transformed bodies of the totem ancestors—and it is ratapa which 
enter women. Of these ratapa Strehlow has said that they are ' fully 
developed boys and girls of a reddish complexion possssing body 
and soul Strehlow also states that “ According as the particular 
totem-god from whose transformed body a ratapa ori^nates is 
related to a definite natural object, the ratapa is likewise related to dus 

■ Ibid. 

■ Ibid- 

* Lec.«u., fi. 


object Here then body and soul originate from the transformed 
ajicestor's body, and a spirit child U a bemg with a body and soul even 
before it enters a woman. Does ibis mean that the body and soui is 
tbai of the totem ancestor himself? Strehlow has taken pains to 
make it dear that only one taiapa is associated with each transformed 
totem ancestor, tlie other raiapa which may be associated with the 
JGianJa we are told originated from tlie Churinga which he carried 
widi him when he went into the ground^ the ratapa which are derived 
from other sources are said to have originated from the Churinga 
which they lost during the course of tlicir wanderings. Hence only 
a few ratapa can be n^rded as liaving originated from a totem 
ancestor himself, the numerous others, apparently inexliausdble in 
number, are merely regarded as of Alchera origin. The most reasotmblc 
explanation would appear to be that the body is regarded as being 
derived from the totem ancestor's body, whether a Knanja or a 
Churinga, and that the spirit may in some cases be derived from one 
which ori^nated from the transformed body of a totem ancestor 
represented by a Knanja and in most cases from the spirits associated 
with it. Spencer and Gillen speak of the emanation of spirit children 
from the Alchera ancesrors who went into the ground, but this would 
appear to be only partially true for spirit children also originated 
from mnsformed Churinga, hence Leonhardi is quite justified in 
criticizing their continued references to the reincarnation of Alcheta 
ancestors, since it is only a relatively small number of rampa w'ho are 
derived from the totem ancestors themselves. The incarnation of a 
totem ancestor, as Strehlow has shown, occurs in a quite different way. 

We may now, I think, begin to see daylight- All those spirits, 
Kurufta or Ratappa^ which are found in the rrfcisdetoe berries, which 
among die Pinrubi and Luritja are said to be formed there, and among 
the Upper and Middle Finke Arunta are said to be placed there or in 
die foliage of trees by die good mounmin spirits and their wives, and 
by the Alchera Inkatas according to Spencer and Gillen, including 
those which occur in places where in the Alchera numerous Churinga 
were deposited—all these spirits were clearly placed where they 
occur by the Alchera ancestors themselves, whilst at these spots where 
they themselves entered the ground their bodies were transformed 
into rocks, trees, gorges, etc,, and from them a single Kuruna or 
Raiappa Originated as there likewise did from of the Churinga 
which they carried with diem. Hence, at each incarnation a new 

1 Uia 

gz procreative beliefs 

individual is bom who represents a being of Alehera origin, but who 
is not himself usually the incarnation of a totem ancestor, though lie 
may be derived corporeally f^m one. Upon such a view a belief in 
rdncarnation is quite unnecessary—all that is necessary Is the belief 
in incarnation—and die notion that at death the spirit is either 
oinniliibted or goes to the island of the dead, or the shores of a great 
lake, becomes quite intelligible and by no means Incompatible with 
such belieis. 

It has been urged against Strehlow’s denial of the ciisience of a 
belief in repeated teincamation among the Arunta that this is incom¬ 
patible with tlic ■widespread Australian notion that white men sometimes 
represent tlie reincarnation of deceased members of the tribe.’ 
This argument is not, I dunk, of any great pertinence since in such 
cases we have evidence only of but a single reincarnation of a particular 
deceased individual and nothing more. Such an individual will 
originally have been the incarnation of a spirit child of Alcheia 
origin, his death and reappearance in the form of a white man is 
certainly an eKccpuonai occurrence for it is not alJ white men who 
are regarded as ie reincarnations of deceased blackfellows- 

What seems most likely is dial the belief in single incarnations of 
spirit children who were created in the Alchem represents the orthodox 
belief, and that at the same time there exists a belief which renders it 
possible that in certain cases a deceased individual may be reincarnated 
and reborn j liave already seen that it is believed ihat children who 
die young may be reborn again to the same mo diets, but such a belief 
by no means implies the existence of a general belief in reincarnation 
for precisely the same belief exists among those Australian tribes who 
may be clearly shown not to have sucli a general belief. Clearly such 
statements as that at death the spirit *' finish ” taken togedier with the 
Churinga doctrine and the beliefs relating to the origin of spirit 

^ B. Tfit Ftifnify ifu A:jstTa£an X^iid04% SOI 3 , iii-i- "Hw 

itknrifkarioji of white men Vtsh dsctaxd HktiailseTs of tht tribe hs been l^^nMlLicd dw foUciwwig 
ambckritifA 1 J. MaE^pEL^ Ufe. and SPWiivn Huiurt^ 1 ; 

AJy^t22f£iaf On Cl K4f)» London, 1931^ jC. Grty, Jimrmi Diicowty 

in MutA-JFWr arid iFeittm Loiidon+ iS^i| i, 301-J ; Ch* WilhdniJ,, M^nnert aod 

Cuitama of the Auitt^itKan Nativtt,** JVc™. Soe. if V, tSfi r, 1 3S-^ i A- W. 

77 m /ftHtra/EfiTj L^ndodV 1904.434,44f, 44^; HiSlMfsoiLh £aeufi»™ 

and 4 ifyMiuFio in 1 VOIl„ L^odotlip X Sf I, I i$z ^ MflcGilSivtay, if r t# 

if Jiau£t£naki**t ii Vol^„ Lomioa. h 3 ®* ^ Bfiiugh Scn>Tbi| 3%t 

AhQ*igir 2 fi f ih ii4; W.. E- Rodi^ NonA i^umjJand BulL No, S, IM j, 

j PL SL '■ Etbfiftlogjca! Nowi on the Aboridnal Tribe Cl N..S. WaltSp” J-r & 

PfiK. Six. f ATX frtwEwp i«fp 349^ atio si of tbc same jottrod, 113-114: G. W, 

Earlp '* On tbe Aboii^nd Tribaotlhc NCHlh Cissi cf A Gmgt, Londetn, 

irit 14 < ! 0- jpcnraTi iiVarrW 0/ tif f AuxtfwAAs^ LfsisJon, 



children can only be intcipreied to mean that at death the spirit is either 
anntliilated or goes away for ever to the island of the dead, and that 
therefore the spirit can never undergo mote than a single incarnation. 
It is evident then that a belief in remcamation as a genets! doctrine 
c?n hardly be said to exist among the Central tribes. 

The absence of a belief in reincamation or repeated intamatlon of 
the same body and/or spirit does not, of course, in any way aflGstt 
the question of whether or not these tribes are ignorant of tlie rela¬ 
tionship between intercourse and cbildbinli, it is of value, however, 
to establish the most probably true beliefs of the natives so that, 
as nearly as possible, the actual manner in which those beliefs function 
may be properly understood- 

1 give here two accounts of the Arunta procreative beliefs by the 
Rev, R. H. Madicws. Of this author Spencer writes “ as lie w^as never 
in Central Australia or in personal contact wiili the natives, and only 
rarely indicates the sources of his tnform^on, it is difficult to judge 
of the value of his evidence, some of which is certainly unreliable 
Since, however, it is very likely that Mathews obtained his tnforniadon 
from someone who had been in contact with the natives, and, more¬ 
over, since there is nodiing in them wluch seems in any way doubtful 
I give his accounts here for what they may be considered to be 

“ When a woman becomes conscious of the maternal function site 
reports that she bad a dream somewhat to this effect; One ni^it 
when she and her husband were camped near a certain spring or 
water-hole, she heard voices of infants laughing among the leaves of 
a tree growing near. Her husband may also say that he heard the 
infant coming down out of the tree just before dayb'glu, wlien it 
came and pulled liis hair, after which ir vanished and was believed to 
have entered die w-oman's body through the navel or any other part. 
When the child is bom it is assigned the totem of the locality where 
the mother or father had the dream.** ‘ 

The locality where either of the parents had the dream is, of course, 
the local totem centre of any particular local group. Mathews* remarks 
are petfcctly consistent with both Spencer and Gillen*s and Strehlow*s 
account of these matters, excepting that these latter cbserv'crs make 
no mention of the man or woman becoming aware that she has been 
entered by a spirit child through tlie agency of a dream, but, as wc shall 

^ FU H, Marriage Ofwj Descoit in thI^ Airacvda Tribe:, Cmtial Austrolb^" 

^nrhrop^o^iUf HrS^p 



shortly see^ this Ls quite a common means of determining the totem 
of the unborn child among the Ajimta. 

In an additional account of the Aninta beliefs given by Mathews 
elsewhere, he SKles that s— 

“ According to the Arranda belief, a woman may be camping with her 
husband close to a certain rock, soatage, etc., and a spirit child will 
come out of the ground, or from the rock, etc., and will dirow a tiny 
^runga at her when she is lying asleep. Tliis magioil implement 
enters the wonum*s body and becomes a child. Another version of 
this belief is that a woman, whilst out walking in the bush^ may pass 
near to a cErtam tree where a little spirit child b nestling among 
the leaves, and it throws a small invisible tjurw^a with the same result. 
Clumps of mistletoe growing on the branches of gum trees are believed 
by the blacks to be the favourite dwelling places of spirit children 
tn quest of a human mother. It is also believed tliat spirit children 
are borne along in whirlwinds,, and if they pass close enough to a 
woman will cast a small tjunmga at her in the way described. These 
mythic in&ms arc vety diminutive and may be in the form of any 
sort of creaiure, or even invisible ahogetliei:.” ^ 

The following account of die Antnta belieb is from die pen of 
H. Basedow, an Qbser\Tr who enjoyed a very wide acquaintance witli 
many Australian tribes gained in tbe execution of various ofScial 
duties, such as government geologist and protector of the natives. 
Certain of the fundamental conceptions which Basedow generalizes 
for the Australians as a whole he derives from die pattern set by 
the Luritja, whom he calls die Aluridja, the neighbours of the Amnta. 

"" Tlie fundamental conception of die kob&itg (or totem), so far as 
the Australian aboriginal is concerned, is of a religious naturCp In 
tbe beginning of all things, the Aluridja say a number of exalted 
creatures of human form came out of the earth and were gmeious to 
their tribes-people. Then appeared a menace in the shape of a gigantic 
dog which chased tbe good people from one place to another, until 
they decided to adopt the forms of various animals and plants, and 
thereby became either too fleet for the dog or were not recogjiized 
by iL Other good people now descended from the hills and drove the 
dog back to its hiding-place in a cave where the evil spirits dwelt 
Tile new^comers kindled a fire at the mouth of the cave and kept 
the evil beings in captivity whilst the ori^rtal Deities te-assumed the 

* R IL MiEb4!W»,'' N^decv oa th^ Ainjidik Tribe,” J^firnud smd PnremBrigt p/ f4r 

Sca^^- of /ififw Walu, I 145^1^ 


human form- Ever after, however, these good creanires were able 
to alter their appearance from human to animal at will ; bur cacli 
individual in his choice adhered to the particular animal or plant 
which had saved him from the ravages of the great evil dog* Eventually 
they formed themselves into flat slabs of stone or wood, upon the 
surfaces of which they scratched the emblems of their animal representa¬ 
tion and the tradition of their long wanderings on earth. Ttie spirits 
of tliese Deides now live in the sky but can return at any time to re¬ 
enter the slab generally known as the ‘ tjuiinga ^ 

“ All tribes recognize the existence of deified ancestors, now real 
or spiritual, whom they regard as sacred and worship accordin^y* 
All ancestors stand in a definite, intricate, and indmate rebdonsbip 
10 some animal, plant, water-hole, or other namral object whicli tliey 
have at some time or other lepcesetited; some indeed in the first 
place appeared as animals and later took human form. Tltey ate now 
looked upon as being those powers who by vimic of sacred ceremonial 
can produce the species they have at some dme incarnated, in plenty, 
or allow it to proliferate. As a mauer of fact, some of die sorcerers 
of the tribes often declare that they can see the inside of a sacred 
rock or tjtifinga teeming with young;, ready to be produced.” - 
” Just as the ' totem ’ ancestor is connected with an animal, plant, 
or other natural object, and is embodied in the sacred form of the 
tjuringa^ so the individual who traces Ids descent from such ancestor 
recognizes a dose and mysterious affinity between himself and the 
tjurmga which lias become his by heredity j henceforth it becomes 
his sacred talisman which protects him from evil and procures for him 
the means of maintaining his existence.”^ 

“ Tlie * totem ' is very dear and sacred to the native, and is religiously 
protected by him. 1 well remember on one occasion on die Alheiga 
River I discovered a small black and yellow banded snake w'hich 1 
killed. An Aluridja man who was attiJied to die party at the time 
was greatly shock^ at this, and, with genuine sorrow, told me that 
I had killed his ‘ brotherTurning to an Arundia he lamented aloud : 
‘ Komye f nonni ksJlyi ntik/t kalla ilium^ which literally translated 
means : ’ Oh, dear 1 This brodier of mine is dead.* ” * 

** It Itad been talked among the old men for some time past that the 
bthra Maiyami was giving cause for suspicion. Her husband Piijala 
agreed ; to his knowledge there had been no occasion for her to leave 

* TAt AmrrtflLm J&wigtna}, 

* tby., 

* IHdU 171. 


lus camp for some moons past. His motlier, old IndarrakuttOi. had 
lold liim that when she and Maiy^ana were gaiJicring roots down by 
the Womma waterhole many of the gum trees were covered with 
manna and they partook freeJy of tlie sweet meat^ whidi, as he knew, 
does not often come to ilieir district. The old woman had cautioned 
the girl and growled at her when she did not obey, because she knew 
Matyaria was of the Yallltadni clan and sliould not be allowed to 
eat the manna. This disobedient gin hud, however, not eaten much 
before she became sick and was obliged to lie in the hot sand of the 
creek wheie tile btillrushes stand- Indarrakutta had stood aghast, 
Pitjala explained to die old men, when, unexpectedly disturbing a 
sn^c from the bullrushes, she observed that the creature, in gliding 
over the ground, touched the body of Maiyarra with its tail and, in 
its great haste to disappear, had lefr a portion of its glossy slough 
beside her. * Yakai,' gasped die men, as if from a single mouth, 
‘then it is clear that the ever wakeitil spirit of Womma has caught 
die neglectful Maiyarra sleeping and it is certain she is with child.'" 

“ Sudi was the history of die case as narrated to us. It corroborated 
previous observadons from central and northern tribes. The recogni¬ 
tion of maternity is not connected primarily with any conjugal liberties 
a husband or number of tribal husbands may be privileged to enjoy, 
but more with die recoUecdon of any accidental contact with an 
object by which it is supposed a spirit child can enter ilie body of a 
woman, llie spiritual ingress may take place in a variety of ways, 
but as often as not it is believed to be by means of a hollow object 
of some description. In the present instance it was a snake-skin." ^ 

G. Roheim writes " In Gintial Australia . . . the advent of the 
child is announced in a dream, which we shall call the coacejption 
dream (somewhat paradoxically as she dreams tills about die time when 
she feels the mo vements of die child)." ® 

“ The following dreams are diose of an Aranda woman called 
Ngunalpa, wife of the famous Imakura (Charley Cooper), one of 
Spencer's chief inforraants. Her husband's totem is yalka^ heris is 
yipatcha (a kind of witclietty). Her modier’s name and totem were 
Ilia (emu), her father was called Ilpirinja, and his totem was bidjalka. 
(anotlier Und of witchetiy, a green worm with a bad smell). 

“' In my dream 1 saw a rtJxtnha (whirlwind) widt an iwapa 
(poisonous kind of wntchetty worm). Next day I vomited my bread, 

' [ydLp 

* G- Hobcijn+ Wainfia vtd TTidf Uii; in Central Aoy. 


and I knew that I was pregnant.' Tlib was at Mount Andulja. She 

had had a fight with her husband before the dream. This because 
he liad loIJ^wtia Ciefbsed to give her meau He did tliis because she liad 
not fetdied wa[ct')^ The child was an O^agle hawk), because 

Mount Andulja is an eagle hawk place and tile wind blew from there^ 
The rai^pa was in the iwupa^ and she had a headache because the cold 
went in through her head. The iwupa becomes a chapa or chimackay^ 
bodi being great delicacies of die Amnda menu* This girl*s mme was 

“ Her second daughterj Maud (she mentions only the white name. 
Contact with the whites was of old standing, even when she a 
child at Alice Springs), belongs to the (snake) totem. It was 

near Katia, a renaiui place, that she w-as surrounded by a w^hirlwind, 
and she vomited. 

Her third daughter's name and totem is Mrrhja. She was walking 
with her husband, near Andulja^ when she saw a Utde g^l with kapita 
aralkira (fair hair). The litde girl came quite near, and tlien she 
disappeared* After this she felt the baby. The girl with the fair hair 
looked Ute her own sister Nelly, in fact she thought it was Nelly 
when she first saw h* As the vision approached from Andulja, the 
little girl w3^ an erritja* Her ovti grandfather {^iranga) and her faiher*s 
brother are also ^ 

Roheim claims tJiai both Spencer and Sttehlow “ have very much 
exaggerated the facts when diey stated that the Aranda did not know 
the causal relation between coitus and eonoeprion- It would be nearer 
the truth to say that some of tliera go so far in their acceptance of the 
official doctrine as to deny diis connortion. ^^Oie staunchest advocate 
of the i;hiin£nga doctriae was of course old Yirramba. He went so 
far as to say that even a man could give birth to a child if the spirit 
entered him. I knew enougii about him from his dreams to under¬ 
stand why he was such a radical cAurimga believer. But in most cases 
coitus was regarded as a necessary preHminary. Some of the western 
Luriija (Pana, etc.), who had never seen a white man before, held 
view 3 tliat were intermediate between the mythical and the natural 
explanation. They would say that the unborn child or embryo came 
out of die but entered the fadier's body first and then 

penetrated into the mother through the penis. Or they would also 
say that sometimes the hini<mka had nothing to do with the whole 

^ Bohelm d«i not give ^ tneamng of dwM wipfdi 

* Uiui, 14475- , ^ 

* Tbci Luntfn Word fat (nj). 



thing; the child just went into the mother from the father’s 

“ To make assurance doubly sure^ I have seen tite children of these 
western tribes enacting the whole process of coitus, conception, and 
cljildbirtli. Theie was certainly no se.tuaJ ignorance in ilieir case. 
We must not forget dm the whole doctrine is esoteric and cannot 
even be properly revealed before inldadon, Le, before they are 
oflicially acquainted with the tristence of ckumngas^ After initiatioii 
die majority really believe that something else is needed besides coitus 
to ensure conception—dial is, repression has set in, but not gone 
very far 

'The fact tliat Roheim observed children enacting the whole 
process of coitus, conception, and chlldbirdi ’’ does not, of course, 
meait that these children were aware of the fact, as RoJidra implies, 
diat intercoms is causally related to conception and childbirth, nor 
docs It even necessarily mean that they recognL&ed tliai irtiercourse 
was in some way connected with chUdbirclu Tlic observed lact alone 
that in play they go through the " whole process ** tells us very 
little concerning dieir ideas about that process. If, as all observers 
including Robcim are agreed, it is generally known tliat intercourse 
serves to prepare the women for die entry of a spirit child into her, 
the role of intercourse will, in ihe case of the children’s play, be quite 
clear—it is but the mirror of whai is officially believed, namely tliat 
intercourse is a necessary preliinmary condition of tlie entry of a 
spirit child into a woman- Roheim's statoments cannot be too easily 
ffismissed- As an experienced psychoanalyst he could be relied upon 
CO discover and foidihilty report those nuances of meaning and 
beluiviour which might perhaps escape others- His statements con* 
ceming tlie w^estem centml tribes, namely, that they believe die unborn 
cluld to enter the modier through die penis are certainly somewlitfU 
novel, for no other investigator had been previously able to secure 
similar statements from the natives. Tliese statements are, of course, 
not in question, and altliough they w^ere secured from informants 
w'ho had never seen a wbite man it is none the less possible for all that 
that some white influence had been at work here, though this is to be 
doubted. If tli6?n Roheim’s report is to be relied upon it would seem 
probable that unul the native is initiated into the social interpretation 
of the nature of things he is under the impression that intercourse 

^ /" Piytho-AflaEj^f cf Primhlvc CulttinJ /nfmoMtii/ JiMifnal 


U closely coiuiecied witli diildbirtii; wlien^ liowevcr, he lias been 
initiated into the traditional teachings he discovers his former elemen¬ 
tary knowledge to Jiave been incornplete, and he gradually sliifts the 
emphasis from a belief in material reproduction to one in favour of 
spiritual reproduction. The mfeienoe from this being diat in certain 
groups the shift in emphasis, die displacement, may become so 
complete that any coimection between intercourse iind childbirth 
may eventually come to be altogether obscured. This precisely is 
what many students of this subject have claimed to have been the 
general process throughout Australia. We shall have occasion to 
examine this claim in some detail in a later chapter. 

Tile following extremely interesting account by H. K. Fry represents 
the relevant repon of the findings of the Adelaide University 
Anthropological Expedition to Mouni Liebig in Central Australia 
in August, 1931.^ 

Representatives of the Pintubi and Luritja natives gave the 
following account of tjuntfia - When a baby is bom his or her 
ancestor place is known and a big ijufunn is made, this being die case 
for a boy or girl. It is kepi in a cave htipinga. When a boy lias been 
initiated he is given a second ^urioia. This is his mother’s. The two 
arc then shown to him and he is told 'Anatsgo ad[iiiuo hitara pufitupa ' 
—* Body yours two tjunma-’ Tliey teU the ^Is, * We have your 
body over itiete,* but the tjurum ate never shown to them. When 
there are many sons the eldest looks after the mother’s tjunma^ and 
for each other boy they make another one for the mother's body. 
It was also stated that a man could give away his first but 

must always keep the one given at his imuation. After a boy has been 
circumcised, but before he has been shown hb ^uruna, he is given a 
matoM (Pintubi) maitahoktna (Ngalia). Tliis is a small bull roarer, 
equivalent to the Aranda nantatiina^ Tile /Twrofc* is carried in the boy’s 
hair, which is done up in a bulky chignon.... It is given by a man 
10 his son. If he has no son he gives it to his sister’s son. 

“ Tlie native belief, therefore, provides for the identificadon of his 
body with that of his totem ancestor, either in the form of a familiar 
spirit inhabiting a totem place, or in the form of a tjunmtt representing 
the transformed bodies of the totem-ancestors of his mother and 

1 H. K. Fry I'' Bniy loJ Soul,» Sfwiy front Coitnil Aintnitu," tit, No. 



“ The riiirrauves of women concerning the conception of their 
children give further information on this question. Tile following 
histoties ore quoted from notes taken at Mount Liehtg. 

1. " Wariptutda. —Ng^lia womaii^ speaks Pmtubi. Female child. 

* Find along Watulhi. She went for food—gum from the 
small stems of the warild^i hush. After she ate that, she fell something 
in her belly. Does not know what happened. She fell down, she got 
up^ went back to the camp, drank water and was sick. Baby's totem 
is Ud^ulpa, She dreamed that biAuAa^ belong to 'Watulbt. That he 
threw a stick which bit her and she fell down. Then she went for 
food and the rest happened. She does not remember if the man in the 
dream was like anyone she knows. There is a boy mduda at Watulhi 
now called Jorakula. This is her husband— hiTti —^her actual husband.' 

2. “ jy/i^£mi(f,“Pinnihi. Male child. ' One place Namara, 
She was taking witchetty grubs {Ukoard) in the roots of wilchctty 
bushes. She fell down. She got up, w'ent back to camp, had a drink 
of water, then felt sick. She lay down. Then sick. Tiie totem of the 
child is tii/a=honey ant. Someone threw honey ant, that was why 
she fell down. Stick fell from tree, and she thought someone threw 
it. Did not see anyone, but thought someone might have thrown 
it. She dreamed before she went out, then she went for honey ant. 
She dreamed she saw a baby in the bush, and it disappeared.' 

3. “ Larija .—Pintuhi married to Ngalia man. Female diild. 
' She went for water and Ndiina tlircw a little stick, which hit her 
in the stomach and went right inside her. She got up and went bock 
to camp. After she went back to camp she was sick, then she teh 
something heavy inside. This happened she did not dream it. She 
dreamed a man had a waddy tn his hand and threw it and she fell down. 
After she came back from the water she dreamed this. The waddy 
went through the belly below the navel, not the vagina, and went up. 
The man w’os an old man witli a white beard, a shortish man with a 
big stomach, he looked like Tuma, a Pikili chief from Watulha. She 
calls Tuma kareL He is actually her own eldest sister's husband. 
She went for the water at Taluwara—two days soudi of Walunguru 
(M. Leisler). Ndibta (= mirage) is the totem ancestor of the 
place. She saw him hazily even though he was standing in a clear 
place and not far from her. She did not get a clear view of him, just 
a glimpse. She felt the pain, fell down, the stick went tn, and the fall 
drove it in farther. The totem of the cldld b 

* The EQtcni pemnal+cy or s^trt dTa plm. 


4. ** Jatakalonc. —Pintubi. Female child, * She went for Ilkoara 

(wltchetty) — ’vith a stick — someone threw at her. Old man threw it. 
She saw old man come up, she saw him throw the stick. She felt 
sometiiing hurt in her belly. She fell down, and by on the ground, 
and fell nothing. Tlie old man got into iier belly while she by down, 
and old man became baby- When she tvent back to the camp she 
was sick, and she knew the old man Jiad gone in. TTiey did not sec 
the old man again when they went out, so ha must have gone into her. 
The old man was like T^inapurutttna—she tails TjinapunitunaAajnera 
(= mother's brother, Luritja); he calls her d{utuldpa (= sister’s 
daughter, Pintubi). The baby's totem is tar<d^ari or takiheri = emu. 
Tlie old man was the huluda. She had a dream, old man came near, 
he tlirew a little stick at her. After that dream she knew she w^as 
pregnant. When she woke up she did not know she was pregnant, 
but in a couple of days she knew it.’ 

—^Pinrubi. Male cliild. * She went for a big 
mob lupidpa (= jelka, Cyperus rotundus). WUle she was digging, 
an old man threw a Itnle yam stick at her. She felt it hurt in the bottom 
of her abdomen. She fell down, she went back to tamp and was sick. 
She felt a weight in her inside. After that the old man was not seen 
any more. She think iltat he be inside her, and become baby. The old 
man was like Tuma. She calls Tuma kffmem, and he calls her ekari 
diundalpa (o^flri=sistjer's daughter, Luritja). She had a drt^m that 
old man Tuma came along. When he came near he tlircw a little 
waddy at her and he disappeared. She dreamed this after tlie above 
events. Baby's totem is kaid{Uy water. Kaldjupimba Is the place of the 
water totem, and is one day north of Walunguru.’ 

" In each of these histories ii will be noted that the tiirowtng of a 
^untfie-equivalent ts given as the cause of conception, but in four 
ras es the conception-idea is overdetermtned. In cases i and 2 the 
eating of the totem is coincident, and in addition the agency of 
the totem-ancestor is brought in by case i. Again, in cases 4 and 
f the totem-ancestor is dehnitely stated to become transformed 
into ilie baby, the ‘ old man' becoming a female child in the 
instance of case 4. 

“ Roheim's mteresdng interpretation ^ of the visionaiy agent of 
impregnation as a fither-substitute receives some support from these 
histories. But there is the complicating factor that conception occurs 
at a definite locality, the impregnating agent is the totem-ancestor of 

*■ imerAitaanJ: Jmtritai 



that plaKj and this totem-ancestor may be the person of a rekrive 
of the woman in question. This is illustrated most forcibly in the 
history of case u The woman certainly did not sta te that she recogni^d 
her husband in the person of the totem-ancestor^ hut the recognition 
must liave been made. Here^ then, is a case which should represent 
the happy marriage in which the father-image is merged in that of 
the hust^nd, whereas in fact the accidental circumstance, that the 
totem-ancestor of the locahty was also the womanhusband, appears 
to have been the deiermining factor in the case^ 

“ The complexity of the conception-idea, illustrated by ihe women's 
stories rebted above, was found to be even more complicated when 
the question was discussed with some of the older men- These 
informants stated that unless a woman had sexual intercourse at a 
certain locality she could not find her hahy there. This statement 
was taken down verbatim in the Luritja language from the dictation 
of a Luritja and Pintubi man : 

ma/Tt &uilif kuAka/iid, tjitjx 

Mart «pulj0Et Ml unmurled nrpmu^ child fbc gets not 

JVau unionidLi, mtm t/iJNnaputkii mui fsndinfu. 

M^rv gone wsy, vonum pb« temm if tm dovo, child gets nat «ii dawn. 

** I was unable, in spite of many questions, to obtain any statement 
from my informants concerning any eifea which sexual intercourse 
has on the woman such that pregnancy can occur. Concerning 
knowledge of pregnancy, however, they state that although a woman 
■ dries up' wl^en she is pregnant, yet she does not know that she is 
pregnant until she feds something in lier abdomen^ 

" Our infoimation so far has been concerned with the origin and 
aature of tlie body. The spirit part of a marij iurim-inrun (Pintubi), 
the equivalent of the Aranda was stated by my Pintubi and 

Luriqa informants to have nothing to do with the totems and tJufiauL, 
They said that the fomm-ijirwt was formed in the berries 
Loritja, Pintubi) of the misttetoe (matmgimf Luriqa, 

nJimkininpa^ Pintubi), and then hangs down from the leaves of the 
mjsdetoe. When a piegnant woman passes, the kunm-kurtm goes iru 
When a man dies bis kunm-kurufi g?oes west to a big water (Wdo, 
Luriqa, aplnti^ Pintubi ^ translated by my inteqsreter as * the sea *) j 
it goes into the water^—finish 

It is to be noted here that the dream among the Luritja and Pinrubi, 
as among the majority, if not all, of the Austrdian tribes, is a customary 

* Ld^ dL, If t7-r4H 

* Ibid, IfSr 


means thiough which the pregnancy of a woman is either announced 
or confirmed) cither to the mother herself or else to some ciose 
relative, the manifest dream content being apparently thoroughly 
“ institutionalized **. 

The fact that Fry’s informants stated that unless a woman had 
had sexual inteicouisc at a certain locality she could not £nd her 
bahy there, decidedly, as Fry says, renders more complicated the 
alteady complex conception ideas of the Luritja and Pintuhi, we must 
therefore devote some place to the clarification of these ideas. 

Each individual, it is clear from Fry's account, represents the 
reincarnation of a totem ancestor, w'ho Has a real existence " eitlier 
in die form of a familiar spirit inhabiting a totem place, or in the form 
of a ^rtma representing the rramformed bodies of the totem-anccstors 
of his modter and himself". Now it is to be noted that the coiporeal 
and spirit parts of an individual are derived independently of one 
another and in different ways. The entry of the of the totem' 
ancestor into the woman is cllected by the throwing of a tjutima 
at die woman in the totem locality, the dirowing of tlie tjunma being 
regarded as " the cause of conception ”, the spirit part or soul entering 
the remcamated body of the ancestor already within the pregnant 
w'oman, subsequently, and in complete dissociation both of the 
xjuTuna and the totems. 

Tlie important question now U this: If the throwing of the Churinga 
is the cause of conception, is it the sole efficient cause, or are we here 
dealing with a plurality of causes, sexual intercourse widtin the totem 
locality being the other indispensable cause ? This question does 
not, I tliinlt, present any insuperable difficulties. According to Fry’s 
informants, a woman cannot be entered by a child unless she has 
previously had intercourse wdihln the boundaries of the totem locality 
at which the spirit diild normally le^dcs. It is to be noted tliat Fry’s 
informants spe^ of” intercourse at a certain totem locality ", and of 
the abode of the totem-ancestors as the " totem place This, if it 
rneans anydung, means that the local totenuc group will generally 
live in die vicinity or locality of the abodes of its toicm-an^tors, so 
that intercourse w'ill in any event generally take place wldiin the 
boundaries of the totem locality of the group, and since there are a 
variety of totems represented within a local area, it is in the vicinity 
of one particular totem abode that the Churinga will be dirown, 
and the totem-ancestor of that pardcular place enter the woman. 
This, indeed, is Ilow the totem of die child is determined. Intercourse 



does not h^ve to take; place zi the totem pl^e or in the immediate 
vidnity thcreaf- If this interpretation is oarrect ^ then Fry^s account 
IS in essential agreement with Spencer and Gitlen^s findings, as when 
they writCj - we have amongst the Arunta, Ltiritcha, and llpirra 
trihesj and probably also amongst others such as the Warramunga, 
the idea firmly held that the child h not the direct result of intercourse, 
that it may come without tlus, which merely, as it were^ prepares 
the motl^er for tlie reception and birdi also of an already-formed 
spirit child who inhabits one of ihe local totem centres. Time after 
rime we have questioned them on this point, and always received the 
reply that the child was not the direct result of intercourse/" ^ 

We have already discussed the significance of tliesc statements in the 
preceding page^, and wc Iiave seen that intercourse is regarded as a 
purely adventitious preparation of the woman for die possible recep- 
rion and birth of a spirit child among the Arunta; tills would appear 
to be the siuiarion dso among the tribes of the Northern Territory 
and of Queensland* Among the Pintubi and Luritfa, however, tJte 
belief seems to assume a more integrated form, for intercourse b 
regarded as an essential preltminiiry without which the spirit cliild 
w'ould not enter the woman* 

Among the Pintubi and Luritja, how^ever, intercourse is a c&mHiion 
of pregnancy but not the cause of it, the cause being the throwing 
of rile Churinga, Intercourse may naturally exxur without being 
foUow'ed by the entry of a spirit child Into the woman, but a spirit 
child will not enter a woman without intercourse between her and a 
man having previously taben place within the general locality in whidi 
the abode of that spirit child is skuated* 

Among the Aninta intercourse must at most have been regarded 
as a helpftil though not as an absolutely mdispensable preliminary to 
the entrv' of a spirit child into a woman* 

It should he noted here that the spirit child does not enter the w^oman 
through the vuK'a, but tluough the loins, the navel, or the abdomen; 
the male organ is, however, probably assumed by tlie natives, as it is 
by many whites, to pass into the female loins, oertatnly into the 
abdomen, during mtercourse, and thus the preparaiioti may ^ regarded 
by tile natives as a definitely physical one, and not in any sense ^ a 

^ TtuB lAtcfprmscion findji in italoiimE thjt ** Wliai m man rqrums banBc 

nom » (dowT Hh i li n g) ceftmonyp tny Luneja uifDfmaBia cold hk ht will hiiiv« inier- 

COwic wiih kis xdft in the cijnp uid the P^wTriJu ^dom-Tn) wiEL fly froca Jfli body i:nE& ibe: wqifhil 
B itw a child U cxuicdvedp and the chlld'K totEm is iictermitiod in thlf case not by kpolity, hy 
the cefcmony whidi pnoded cnilm Lql cit*p 65-dL 

* TA* JVi±ay« ^ Central j 1 jtf. 


ricua! oiw. But such an act of preparation is a far ciy from Iwng; either 
a direct or an mdiiect cause of pregnancy, for it would appear to 
bs tnerely an act of accommodation, and not tiecessariSy a premeditated 
one, towards the totem'^pirit who may happen to wish to enter a 
pardcuLu woman. 

Now', since intercourse is virtually an everyday occurrence in the 
life of the Australian woman, she is naturally almost always in a 
state prepared to receive a spirit child, and the ftequendy observed 
fact that a woman may for years live without being entered by a spirit 
child would render it perfectly evident that pregnancy depended 
upon the will of tlie totem-ancestora, and not upon intercou^. 
There can tlicrefore be, among the Ptntubl and Luritja, no reoogjiition 
of tlie part that intercourse plays in the production of pre^ancy, 
in the sense that intercourse is recognized as the act which touches 
off the spring wdiidt sets the whole cycle of events going wliich 
eventually terminate in the birth of a child; on the contrary, this bst 
event is regarded as being due entirely to the entrance of a spirit 
child Into the woman. 

Fry’s remaining findings have already been discussed in the 
preceding pages. 

Miss Olive Fink, to whose work on the northern and north¬ 
western Anmta we Iiave aheady referred, has this to say in connection 
with die procrearive beliefs of these groups;— 

" Contrary to the usually accepted opinion, I found the Aranda 
natiii'es do understand the part the father plays in procreation; they 
believe that the body of a baby comes from its father and mother 
conjointly. It is only the spirit part which enters the mother at the 
time of' quickening when she * finds ’ it. 

“ The totemic estate was also die place where the woman who was 
brought into the * horde country ’ by marriage, usually, found her 
baby’s spirit. To her this was a country of the opposite moiety, 
but to her husband and baby it was their own ‘ country'. 

“ In a normally functioning community she would seem to have 
* found ’ it, as a ride, in the correct ancesti^ locality, more often than 
do the women in the more disintegrated areas. But this is natmal where 
freedom of movement over the country of the tribe is so unrestricted 
now, and she is more often away from her husband's own country 
than not. In some cases slie has not even seen it; asaresult of economic 

“ When a woman ‘ finds ’ her baby’s spirit elsewhere, the headman 



of that loiemic ateals told and be g^ves to him, or her, a name belonging 
to hts estate. If the baby is a boy a name is given 'whkh is associated 
with some water, tree, or stone near tvliJch he was ‘ foimd ^ Tltis 
feattite indicates the place where some dieam-time ancestor performed 
some act, and with which ritual songs and paint are associated, Ot 
he may have performed some ceremony and left tjurina there, and 
consequently baby-spirits awaiting incarnation.'* ^ 

Miss Pink is aware of the dilBculty of obtaining the original beliefs 
of these native who have been so greatly altered as a result of tlidr 
continuous contact with tlie wlute man over many years. She has 
herself stated diat" among missiontaed natives it is exttemdy difficult 
to find out what die ori^ai beUels really were, or even what their 
own really are now, ’Oe beliefs they recount are sometimes only 
such as they think the missionary would approve If he should hear 
them " ® Further, Miss Pink writes that " In the Aranda tribe my 
informants were, of course, sophisticated nadves, whtdi feet, although 
it fedlitaied discussion with them, also made some of their s ta te m ents 
' suspect *. So there had to he a constant si/dng of * wheat from chaffi *, 
and I have no doubt that some * chaif' may have escaped the 

We have already considered some of Miss Pink’s findings in connec¬ 
tion with the problem of leincamation which, as we have seen, she 
found not to exist among the Arunta except in so far as children who 
have died young are concerned. Hm there is only to be considered 
the statement tliat the Arunta do understand the part w-hicb the father 
plays in procreation, and that they believe the hJy of the baby 
to be derived conjointly from the mother and father, the spirit part 
entering later. 

It is here necessary to point out that no one has previously described 
such a belief for the Arunta, qr any other Australian tribe for that 
matter. Certainly the statement th^ the body is derived from the 
parents conjointly is incompatible with the (^uringa doctrine, and 
certainly it could form no part of the uaditlonal teaching. 

What has probably occurred is that as a result of the breakdown 
of Arunta culture and the long association of the natives with the 
missionary and otlier whites, the traditional teachings have under¬ 
gone a very considerable modification which, at the present time, is 

* 0+ " Tile LaniiiTwnen m NortJwam DivElkin df litc Annda Trilar, CcftiniJ 

Aimnllia," vi, 

■ IbW-t 7i *1^ 

^ IbkL, 177, 


di^overable in such beliefe as Miss Pink lias reported in this coiiiiecdon, 
O r it may possibly be that as a result of the weakening of the emphasis 
which was in the past placed on the traditional view of these matters 
that the simplest material interpretation of the facts has been arrived at 
by the natives themselves. 

In view of these considerations it is doubtful whether Miss Pink's 
findings may be accepted as representative of tire Amnta aboriginal 
procreative beliefs. 

In connection with the procreative beliefs of the northern tribes of 
Central Australia Spencer and Gillen state that: 

" In every tribe without exception there exists a firm belief in die 
reincarnation of ancestors. Emphasis must be laid on the fact that 
this belief is not confined to tribes such as the Arunta, Waxramunga, 
Binbinga, Anula, and others, amongst whom descent ts counted in 
the male line, but is found just as strongly developed tn the Urabimna 
tribe, in which descent, both of class and totem, is strialy maternal.” ^ 

According to the tradtdons it is believed that in the far distant past 
certain semi-human ancestors wandered about over die country now 
occupied by the Urabunna tribe, and at various pbces performed 
sacred ceremonies. Wherever these ceremonies were performed tliere 
were deposited in the ground, or in a rock or water-hole, or other 
natural feature, which arose to mark the spot, a number of spirit 
individuals called mai^enirli.^ Tliese tnaMurli emanated from dm 
bodies of the Aklieia ancestors, and every living individnal is regarded 
as the incarnation of such a spirit. 

Among the Urabunna, as among the Arunta, the totems are strictly 
divided iKtween the two moieties of the tribe. In general among die 
northern tribes descent bodi of class and totem is striedy paternal, 
a spirit child, for example, is not supposed to enter any woman unless 
she is the wife of a man of the same moiety and totem as the spirit. 
Among the Urahunna, however, the case is different, die spirit can 
only enter a woman of the same moiety and totem os itself, should 
it by chance enter the wrong woman it will invariably abort. Associated 
with these ideas is the belief that in each successive incarnation 
the spirit clianges its sex, moiety, and totem. Tlus belief is also found 
in the Warramunga tribe. 

Tlie spirit of a dead man, now called butifira, returns to the place 
where it was ori^naUy left by the Alcbera ancestor, where it remains 

^ R SpcncFT and F- Gifloa, TAi Tnhs ^ Ceum/ Lnodao, 19O4,, 

* I4(^ 


until tt undergoes remcarn;ation. As a result of this peculiar belief 
each spin I j it is obvious^ "willj in the course of rime, run the whole 
gamut of the totems, and alternate from side lo side of the tribe, 
and at death always return to its original home.^ 

In most of the northern tribes, but not in all, the toiemic groups are 
believed to have arisen as the direct offspring of one great eponymous 
ancestor;" among the Urabunna the members of each totemic 
group are believed to have arisen as die direct oi&pring of one or two 
eponymous ancestors.^ 

According to these notions it is quite clear that we are not dealing 
here, among die northern Central tribes, with the reincarnation of the 
Alchera ancestors diemselves, but rather with the of these 

ancestors, a point which Spencer and Gillen do not seem to liave 
succeeded in making sufficiently clear. It is evidently clearly recognlased 
among some of Uiese tribes that each in dividual is the incarnation 
of a spirit child which was not die offspring of one of the Alciiera 
semi-human ancestors or bdngs, hut was merely in Jus keeping and 
deposited by him at a certain spot. Among other tribes, and according 
to Spencer and Gillen, the majority of die northfim Central tribes fall 
into this category, the belief is fhat each individua] represents the 
incaimtion of the direct oSspring of an Alchera ancestor^ In no 
case is there a belief in the reincarnation of the Alchera ancestof 
himselL lliis point, it will be recalled, lias already been made by 
Leonliardi aprapas: of the Arunta in connection with Spencer and 
Gillen s use of the phrase “ the reincarnation of totem ancestors 
but, as I have endeavoured to show, Spencer and Gillen used the term 
ancestors lo refer to die original JCurima left by the great Aldieia 
Iniatas in certain spots, 3$ w^ell as to the/fl^aroj themselves. Certainly 
Spencer and Gillen^s use of the term ^fancestor is confusing, but 
there can be no doubt that whatever the case may be with respect to 
the northern Central tribes, the more southern Central tribes, or at 
least the Arunta, do believe that the well as the spirit children 

thqf carried about with them ate, at l^st occasionaJly, reincarnated* 
Stteblow has himself stated the fact, ^^lat does seem fairly cermin 
is that the eponymous anc^tor of the Arunta, Numbakutia, is ne^^er 
temcamated, and this would appear to be true, too, of the eponymous 
ancesion of the totemic groups among the northern Central tribes* 

In respect of the Wanamunga tribe Spencer and Gillen note that 

* tbid^ 


“ the women ere very carehiJ not to strike the minks of certain trees 
with an axe^ because the blow might cause spirit chlltfren to emanate 
Irom them and enter their bodies. They Imagine that the spirit is very 
minute—about the siae of a small grain of sand—and that it enteis the 
woman through the navel and grows within her into the child 
Referring to the'problem of the meaning of the practices of incision 
and subincision they add that “ It will thus be seen that, unless the 
natives have once possessed, but have since lost, all idea of the associa¬ 
tion between procreation and the intercourse of the sexes, which is 
extremely improbable, the elaborate and painful ceremonies of initia¬ 
tion cannot In thdr origin have had any direct relation to 

Thus, it is clear that these tribes have a conception of the spirit 
child which is Identical, or almost idendcal, with that of the more 
Central tribes. 

^ tbkL, 110-1- 
1 Ibid. 

Chafter IV 


Men slialt cast their stins and live for ever, but lieanls and serpcnQ shidl 
die."^—From a Zulu myth. 

B. H, Pubcell, writing of the imdadon ceremonies of the Workii 
tribe, malces the following statements of interest in connection with 
the procreative beliefs of the natives;— 

" The Bora Ceremony.—After the third initiadon into this remark¬ 
able ceremony the youth is made to drink semen that is taken ftom six 
or as many young clean ^ and blacks, as may be in the camp at the 
Bora ground. No pus ate admitted to the ceremony other than these. 
When an old man is dying, they do exactly the same . They hold 
that as semen brought them into the world, it should keep them alive 
and from dying ■ and when a man dies they think that the semen 
germinates and even comes through the earth again and appears in the 
form of a white man or something else, often a star.” ^ 

These statements suggest tliat the Workii are aware of the role 
that the semen plays in generadon. In speaking of the operation of 
subindsion Purcell writes as follows:—■ 

" The terrible rite or' Micka * making, as it is known by the Workii 
Blacks, is either performed on the backs of men, as in circumcision, 
or else on the ground. Before the nadves, accort^g to their legends, 
understood reladonship, fttiieis and daughters cohabited; conse- 
ipiently deformities became numerous and the good spirit angry. 
The men then established totems, the deformities disappeared, but 
the people increased. Consulting again the good spirit tivey were told 
to perform the mudladon. They ail refused, hut seizing one man 
they made a Micka ' of him and the way all the w'omen ran after him 
caused die others to become jealous of him." * 

From these statements it would appear evident that die Workii 
arc aware of the reladonship between coitus and childbirth, and, from 

” ftlwand CujwniirfAiiftialiiifl Aiorieina,'’ Btrlazr GutOaL 



Puroell's previously cited statements, tlie atvareness presumably 
extends to the part tliat the semerr plays in procreation* 

Did Purcell's statement of the beliefs of the Workii stand alone 
they mi^t strike one as ratber surprisingly well-informed for an 
aboriginal Australian people, but the fact is that precisely similar beliefs 
have recently been recorded by an independent worker who was 
probably quite unaware of Purcell's repon. However, similar beliefs 
iiave been recorded recently for the irihes living somewhat fbrther 
to tlie east on Cape York Peninsula, In connection with the tribes 
of Arnhem Land, North Australia, Professor W, Lloyd Warner 
writes its follows ^:— 

" I have sp^ some time with the northern tribes of Australia in 
two dilferent field expeditions. I was in very intimate contact with the 
natives of the region. During the first eight or nine months while I was 
there I was firmly convinced that the people had no understanding of 
physiological conception and that they believed in the spiritual 
impregnation of a woman by a lotemic child spirit. All tlie fathcK 
told me tlieir children had come to them in dreams as lotemic souls 
or in some extra-mundane experience and had asked that their mothers 
be pointed out to them. TJiey had complied w-ith the children's 
requests and tliey liad entered the vaginas of the mothers. During all 
tills rime, although I was in constant relationsliip wiiij a large nuiSier 
of the men and although there was practically no taboo in our con¬ 
versations and the latter were of the most indmate nature, I could 
find no indication of any knowledge whatsoever about physiological 
conception, yet in the functional study I was making of the people, 
and looking at the problem from the point of view of the ‘ total 
situation [hat is, a consideration of die whole culture, dieie were 
strong indiwiions that there was an understanding of the true nature 
of the physical function of the father. 

“ Tlie second time I entered die area I determined to go into this 
matter further, since the people I studied were hut a continuation of 
me Central tribes on which Spencer and Gillen had leponed. An 
occasion arose in wliich 1 could inquire directly of certain old men just 
what the semen did when it entered the uterus of a woman. They all 
looked at me with much contempt for being so ignorant and inforaied 
me that * that w^ wliat made babies'. The reason I had not been able 
to obtain this information earlier was because die ordinary sav’age 

* W, Uay^ Conrrgl In Prinudv^ Sooeev 

No, 4y iDj-7 ; A ElMck CiviUmion,” Nirtr Yorit^" 

BtfsA Cimrnf Rrvmt Aptfl* 



is far more interested in the spiritua] conception of the dtild, whidi 
determines its place in the social life of the people, titan tie Is In the 
physiological tneclianlsm of conception. He bad £ir rather talk about 
ritual and inyth than he would the ordinary mundane affairs of life. 
Tlte relationship existing between the piimidve men of nonli-eastem 
Arnhem Land and me as a held worker would be the same as that of tlie 
traditional visitor from Mars who might have come to study tlie 
Puritans of Massachusetts in colonial days. Had he asked Cotton 
Mather or any other memher of the community * wltere babies come 
from % be would have discovered that they came from heaven and that 
God sent them and that it was the special duty of the church to look 
out for them. He might be told tiiat the stork brought them an<l 
discover totemie ‘ spiritual concepdon *. He would have been told 
this for exactly die same reason that the ordinary anthropological 
field investigator is informed by the natives that die totemie spirit 
is what causes impregnation." 

We have here then two independent accounts of different tribes 
living in the same general region who appear to be aware of the 
role played by die seminal fluid in producing children and who, at 
the same time, possess conceptional spiritual beliefs which follow 
dtc same general pattern as those found elsewhere in Australia, hfay 
It not then be, in view of these Undings, that a similar knowledge 
crisis among die numerous odier tribes among whom this knowledge 
is said not to exist Professor Warner says in thb connection, '* I 
think there is a possibility that this knowledge does exist among 
the people but is not considered important and that the spiritual 
conception of theduld looms so la^ In their ibinking that die 
geld worker obtains nothing but these fects wlicn he investigates 
primitive peoples.’*^ This is, of course, a most important point, 
and, indeed, the very crux of the problem with which we ate here 
concerned | moreover, as we have already seen, Roheim lias stated 
that this is precisely what occurs among the western Central tribes 
investigated by liitn, and Strehlow has indicated that similar conditions 
existed among die Arunta and Luritj'a, although none of these investi¬ 
gators have indicated in any way whatsoever that the Centtri tribes 
possessed any knowledge of the nature of the seminal fluid. It would 
be a dangerous procedure to argue from the conditions found among 
the tribes living towards the coast on die north and to the notth'-easr 
diat similar factors were operative among any of die tribes living 

1 Ibid. 



ciscwlicrc in Atistralta^ for the tribes living on the north and north' 
east have, it can be shown, been considerably influenced by Papuan 
contacts.^ Moreover, these regions have for many years past been 
steadily infiltrated by wliite settlers and prospeaors as well as by 
missionaries, so that it would have been of interest to know some¬ 
thing of the actual cultural background of Professor Waitier^s 
informants in view of their remarks. The native is at all rimes 
exceedingly obli^ng, and the question one asks often dctcrmities 
the nature of the answer one receives. However, Purcell's account of 
the Workii beliefs indicates that they form an integral part of the native 
dogma, and I consider that here, at least, there can be no doubt that 
die connection between seminal duid and birth is understood, though 
only, it would appear, in a magico-ieligious sense. It is also possible 
that tlie connection may be a purely adventitious one, but this, for 
the time being, must remain a speculation. That the Workii under¬ 
standing of the relationship betw'een the seminal fiuid and childbirth 
is a magico-rdigious one, at least in one of tK aspects, seems clear 
from the fact tliat they believe that when a man dies his semen 
germinates and even comes dirouglt the earth to appear in the form 
of a wliitc man, a star, or something else. At the same time, hotrever, 
tJiey hold that the semen brought tliem into the world—^hut in 
precisely what way we are not told. 

As we shall later see there is every reason ro believe that the beliefs 
of the tribes of this general region are not strictly indigenous, that 
there is some evidence tliat they arc of foreign ori^, and that for 
iliis reason they cannot be regarded as strictly aboriginal Australian 
beliefs. None the less, die points raised by Professor Warner must be 
borne in mind ; we shall liave occasion to refer to them again, mean- 
wiiile we may proceed with the further accounts. 

Concerning the tribes of die Nonliem Territory', Spencer writes t— 
Varied thou^ these tribes are in regard to tlieir organizations 
and customs, there is fundamental agreement on certain points. 
It was in the Central tribes that we first described the belief in die 
existence of spirit children who inhabit certain definite localities and 
enter women. It is interesting to see that this belief is universal 
amongst the Northern Territory tribes. Asirailarbeliefhas been shown 

* See, Tof ccempiE, Pro&sscw Wjutter** «wn snirir, “ MiJay liiiluence w [he AborigtRal 
Cufcuteiof Norlh-^teis Arnhem Lmd,” OAunu.n.NQ, e, ProtcsiciT Wamer 

^oaiderm Ehflf the iniliicacE not nfliected ihe ibodaf of 

^b« of North-Eastern AtcJmsh Land w vrfy fliiBiip hui ibc hfi givt*^ h 

nr fram tappoirin^ such a concfifiddn. -CX 1x4 £ 



by Dr. Roth to exist aniong^st Queensland natives and by Mrs, Bates 
amongst certain tribes in West Australia. In regard 10 diis matter 
there has been considerable dhTerence of opinion, but 1 rbink it may 
now be regarded as established that some such belief was once widely 
pret.’aleni over a kige pari of Australia, I am, myself, inclined 10 
think that it was once universil, for the reason that it now exists 
amongst tribes so widely difiereni from one another in many other 
respects as die Dieri, Amnta, Waduman, hlata. Kakadu, and Melville 
Islanders, The Kakadu beliefs are amongst the most definite drat we 
have, Withoutgoingmtodeiailswhjcharecxplained later, h may be said 
tliere was one great ancestor, named Imberombera, who was responsible, 
originally, for all die spirit children widi whom, either directly or 
by means of individuals w'hom she sent out, the country was peopled. 
There were local spirit centres, just as in die Arunta, and it is these 
spirit diildren who have ever since been bom again. With this belief 
is also closely bound up that of telncamation. It is curious again to 
find that there is fundamental agreement tn tliis matter right through 
the tribes and, further, diat the Anmta In the South and die Kakadu 
in the North liave remarkably parallel beliefs. Tn the former some 
of the ancestors are known by name, others are not. Every indi vidual 
lias Ids, or her, secret name, known only to die old men of his local 
totemic group. For some reason this is one of die most secret and 
most dilHcult things to find out in die Arunta. li' die old ancestor is 
born again, then the human incarnation takes ttiai ancestor’s as bis 
own secret name. Tn the Kakadu, on the odier hand, the name of every 
ancestor ts known and every member of die tribe bears that ancestor’s 
as his or her name in common, everyday use. In some tribes, such as 
the Warramunga, each totem group had one great ancestor from 
W'hom, when he shook himsdf during the performance of ceremonies, 
numerous, but nameless, spirit children emanated. We have, in 
fact, an interesting series of stages heguming with die Arunta and 
its numerous originai ancestors for each group, passing through die 
Warramunga with its one ancestor for each group, and then on to 
the Kakadu with its single great, original ancestor for all the groups,” * 
” There are one or two points in connection witli this belief 
to which attention may be drawn. In the first place it is essential to 
remember that there is no such thing as a virgin amongst the women 
of die nadve tribes from one end of Australia to the other. As soon 
as a native girl reaches puberty, she is handed over to Iier allotted 

Q. Spa,4*j, Tfu tfaavt jTjiScr tf ikt AbftAfJB Taneaiy sf Atutrslsa, London, if r4, aj-4. 



husband and has conunuoiis intercourse for the rest of her Qfe. In 
that respect there is no difference between any mo native women ^ 
and yet the native sees rliat some women l^vc cjiildren, some do not. 
The intercourse is contmuous^ the bearing of children is sporadic. 
It is long after a woman has had intercourse before she becoities aviiire 
that there is a child within her. Seeing then that every woman without 
exception has continuous intercourse; that some liave children, some 
do not 5 that those that have them bear them at varying intervals 
which have no relationship to the time of intercourse, and that the 
woman only knoivs she has a child when tile quickening takes place, 
whichj ag)ain, has no reference to intercourse, it is not a matter of 
surprise that the savage man, wlio is, according to liis lights, a very 
logical being, should seek some other explanation of the origin of 
chiidten tlian that of sexual connection. 

'* There is one very interesting and suggestive point in this connec¬ 
tion, and rliar is the common explanation of die existence of lialf- 
castcs given universally by tlieir moihers, speaking in pidgin English, 
viz,, *Too mudi me been eat em wliite man*s flour/ The chief difference 
tliat they recognized betw'een their life before and after they came 
into contact with white men was, not the fact that they had inter¬ 
course with white men, instead of or side by side with, blacks, but 
that they ate white flour and that this naturally affected the colour 
of dieir oflsprmg. 1 liave seen old natives in Central Australia accept, 
without question, their wives' liaJf-caste children, making no difference 
whatever between them and the pure bred ones* On the otlier hand, 
it is, of course, naturally, a belief tliar is one of die first to become 
modified when the natives liave been for some time in contact with 
white men.” ^ 

* mrft who httg Ijm atfodaivd tj.irh the lutivti 

may h^v luJd noi diislnilbr vka-n, ttic foibwin^ icnurkii of CaihoTJc misdiiwry Jui. 

from Ikis artkb on tbt NiokKin^ witre of NonthWtHEim Aus&ulb TA4I^ mitw- 
t0«ch*ng1y ^W. Bisdiofi u-rEtni "After many ymn C»f Experij^ ii Kctni that the 
following itaHaccnE can hi shoui ihe aborJlcincc: A bladt wanmi 1l iU not, a a. mlt 
give hinh tnj a^hb^cd child jftcr ihe h** omc eivcfi blitll to a Judf-aate child [n ntUff 
evffl Ihotigh ah* lives in a oawimjuUs and Lmhidkcn imjcifl wirii her bliwk h whi nd 
tifhier iht moat Uvounidc: ooodiiion^ ihc will only g\Yt bSrrlt lo iLjf-casWe dutdren, 

e^ If she lip cidy upon uie wc&doti kul inurcoonae pn^kiUsly with a whhc oc cobuFed 
(Quntae, Malays) inaru 1 ha^-e alnady put ihii chservuiiim before several cxpefi> aidiouf 
hQwavtt, any ioiisJ^ry expLo^ion being arrived ac 

" J luve observed leveral cw$ 111 which bitieli wwnen, of j j to ^ yem, aftcra lingb union 
Widi a eolcHieed mm have ptoducal a liaEfon* diiU, ^-bert oTwcrtlfty they were tlefib 
■Idtou^i b«n J^ed to numy 1 obiW^ed a nmibf rftemly, A nJnet™- 

y^ld TObtKt abanffual Ly^ for yar, wiih * Sitttcm-year^ bealihy girl from another 
Wljeai It ame ro cbildbtnk the newborn wa* not Mt-bWed, kit ptediely 

as [ had eipea^. Imnnwcli as I already Iukw from the bbet ihai die fprl had had^iiiKtiott 
wiih m immfiTaj whii* befow ihe came 10 live with him. Ir Ukjw^ from ihk that the black 


” One of the most smlung feacmes of tlie naiive tribes in Central 
and Northern Australia^ whose customs were Investigated by the 
late Mr^ Gillen and myself, is their universal belief that dhtdren enter 
women in the form of minute spiritSj the representatives of formerly 
existing men and womenj who are thus reincarnated^ This belief in 
reincarnation^ and in procreation not being actually the result of 
sexual intercoursej has now been shown to be prevalent over the 
whole of the Central and Nonhem pari of die continent—^that is, 
over an area four and a half times the si^e of Great Britain—amongst 
many Queensland tribes and in a large part of West Australia. It is 
now too late to secure reliable informatiorL, in r^ard to maitens 
such as tliis, from any part of Australia where the natives have been 
at aD closely in contact with whites, but, though the bdiel'w^as first 
described tn connecdoji with die Amnia tribe, it has now been shown 
to be w'idely prevalent over the continent, and I Iiave little doubt 
but that at one time it was universally held amongst die Australian 
tribes* From my own personal ecperience I know that it is, or was, 
held by the Urabunna tribe inhabiting the country on the West and 
North-West of Lake Eyre ■ by the Aninta that extends to the north 
of the Urabunna up to and beyond the Macdonndl Ranges ; by the 
Kaiiish and Unmatjera tribes whose temiory extends beyond Bartow 
Creek j by the Warramunga tribe inliabiting country nonh- 
wards to and beyond Tennands Creek j by die large Worgd tribe 

WOUJcn arc lost to tEldmcc occs luvc: Doosoetiaii with im liodiv^Uial of aioatlGef itvi tn. 

rrialioii io Ui^ilr Wti iscs they mnuio ticrile ^ (p, 37)^ Jot Qiacliarf;^ Dae Ntolr-Niol, do 
bonenfcnvtimfli id NdrdwHi^Au^>atieai 1| may 

hm be nmarkod diur It ii » C£?faHiOfk 1^1 Ed* afflCing Anlwi httsd&ij ihe lluf 

t puK^red Amalie hof been nuied vidi nn iadpuMy bied makp even ^vt It ilieatatter 

teraiuively nvued puzc^bred mils, hci: pnof^y will never Ik qtiitv u Kood ia ificy Wctc 
before timing with the impure nule- Thece i&r bfTwever^ no sdentibc cvideoce a^'aiiofale 
id cirpport of betieC of courvi, the complete thspeDDfor Bwcbolii'' 

cnri^iUf ob^crviLiiat^ There it cn ii cue nn of a wmon giviit^ birth 10 rvim, 

one cxm^iiete^ a heir-ostc, and the ckher compiElEty I idll-blood, the lesuJt prHumabdy of 
Bepaiate ntitradfozii by 1 iHiice nod 1 hlaefc- Wliot ii of rml value in Biichofi^ obiov^inocmi 
if ihe ftsttroent, conceniitig one paftiailar that previous coittinuotis inietcouroe, 

•he^ dm cooeeivfEj ac ymn of The importance of thii idtefitcnl will: beootno ekarcr ia 
a idbseqoent chapter. 

Ofinterosifn eonoectibn with BiKhofs* imanefiuis ihe {^iliowmg pAngrapHculledi rrom the 
^irst bmK of the lesdirag E]t£EdaL£ popular mcdicaJ Ot|^nl of the Nzsii.S ** The 

■QattH of m Etian of jUten race is hanmuL Sach male sentdi is obsorh^ uEunedtiLlely and COfflh- 
pkrcly imo the blood of the fCTnlie [n mterciicLtw. Thet^i^r * onritact bctWKn a 

and 4 wofam of inochef fwe i» sufficient ro corrupt her yiood far ev«‘+ W'uh hit ilkn 
Subumen o» acquire* bti olLdl ICrul, She Can ntru« S^iu. evta Lf ■!» matfki Arjiui 
Iran, betf puie Amn chiklren—but ooty bastmb^ in who^ breasts two loiib dwdU ami in 
whose Vtr^ bodies ie jtcd g a Mtaon ii dearly visible.** F eported in the N*w ^di Dccdiiber, 

* 9 Jfi an erdek enddcd ^^The Nan WaronMadldne*** by FUt;^Tnuman* "niedkijod 

infKicndiif^ of ibe foter ofitprlfig of s finfik inodier by bff prtffinofides is known as 

» pwdy unreal pbetiOtOenon, for I ibcj« diKtoMiOd of widda itm nadcr may he 
referred (» Piooend Barfd't I^Mrun, Londolip ^ fora mote detailed disenasion 

■ee E- Baboud, ** Tdegony*** the Jaumal pf V, 1514, 



OUT to the east of the btter, to’n^ards the Queensknd border; by the 
Tjingillt tribe, whose country oeutres in Powell Creek* by the 
Umbaia, Nganji, Blnbmga, Mara, Anula, Mungaral, NuUakun, and 
other tribes exiendmg eastwards from the telegraph line to the Gulf 
of Carpentaria and occupying the vast area drained by the Roper, 
Macarthur, Limmen, Wickham and other rivers ; by the Djaunn and 
Yungman tribes, norili of the Tjtngilli; by die Waduman, Mudburra 
and other tribes along the Victoria and Daly rivers ninning westwards; 
by the Kakadu, Iwaidfa, and allied tribes inliabmng the northern 
littoral, and by the natives on Bathurst and Melville Islands^*** 

" The Port Essington natives believe dial, at first, dicre were no 
real human beings, but only alligators, sharks, turtles, cockatoos, etc«, 
and that the present men and women are descendEmts of these^ They 
also believe diat the spirit child goes inside the woman at a spot 
which is frequented by such children and that natives who die are 
bom again at a later period. 

In the Mungarai tribe, in wliidt 1 had more opportunity of inquityj 
the beliefs are very definirc. The far past rime—the equivalent of the 
Ak&eringa in tlic Arunta tribe—^is called KurnaUan. During tliis 
time the old ancestors w^ked about, Eacli one had his original home, 
called BufTtamandti. As in the case of die snake Unianda, they made 
the countT)' with all its natural features as they walked along. W herever 
they stopped they performed ceremonies, and, doing so, shook 
iliemselves,^ with the result that spirit diildten, called MoM-M^y 
who, of course, belonged to the totem {rmmar<zgud^ of the ancestor, 
emanated from their bodies. These spirit children now go into die 
right iuhas^ and are bom as natives. Close to what is now M^:^Dml*s 
Bar, on die Roper River, there is a large gum tree full of spirit children, 
all of tliem belonging to one of the totems associated with ihe Nako- 
mara subclass, and alwniys, so my native irdotmant lold me, on die 
look out for die right luhra* Again, at Crescent Lagoon, the old 
ancestor Namaran, the thunder man, deposited numbers of spirit 
children, and, if a Ngaritjbdlan woman dips her toes In the water, 
one at once passes into her up her leg, or, if she stoops and drinks, 
goes down into her through her mouth* The spirit of a dead person, 
called j^fwra^ goes hack to his old home {Bi£mamanilu}y and sooner 

^ Ibid, £6 j 4. 

* This shiitlng of dhc body i« j vwy dk^mctcriitic Jcjtufis in ifi* totonic ctremonia of 
mny tnbd- Ji imich in tfvkfiencc ihe W'ufnmung;^ wfu ihcmKlvca 

pmuiuly wiih down iKrTonnint eh? emmonict dtirii^ whidb they art luppo^ 

lo dfnijljir the oM unccHtDra- When tncy thm i^tiakc ihcmidvc^ hm of dawn mmitle ofT 
]iift ai the ipirtfi Lisedt arigiaitfly, n enonau fTtHit him when be ihook (S>h, 



or liiter is bom s^in, and in this tribe the sexes are supposed to 
alternate at each successive incarnation. 

'* In the ytmgman tribe there is precisely the same belief in regard 
to the origin of children as in the Mungarai. For example, a Nitaung^ 
or sugar-bag (honeycomb) man arose at Opobinga, near the old 
Elsey Station. Here he is reported to have stayed xritliout wandering 
about. He had numbers of spirit children, who now inliabit the trees 
and stones near his old camp, and out of these they come and enter 
tlie right laBfus. He liad, also, rnatiy bull-roarers, which the Yungman 
people call Purdagiair. In the Yungman, as in the Mungarai tribe, 
the sexes are supposed to alternate at each successive reincarnation. 

'* In die Nullakvin tribe the old times, during which the ancestors 
walked about the country, are called Musmus.^ and each of them has 
his place of origin, called KtmdunghL Like one of them, a rainbow 
man, called Kulakulungini, each of them is supposed to have had 
numbers of spirit children who emanated from them when they shook 
their bodies during the performance of corroborecs. It is these 
who are now constantly entering ifirer, and being born. After death 
tile Spirit of the dead person, caUed Afaritji, goes back to its old 
home, KunJunginij where it remains until it Is bom again. At each 
successive reincarnation the sex changes. 

“ The beliefs of the Mara tribe are fundamentally identical with 
those of the Mungarai and Nullakun tribes. The old rimes are called 
DjiAjoft ; each ancestor had his ancestral home, called WaUha^ and, 
as he wandered over the country, he made the natural features and left 
spirit children behind him, who are continually entering the right 
women. After death the spirit, which is called Padima, goes back again 
to its IPailha until such rime as it undergoes reincarnation. At each 
successive rcincamaiioit, also, the sex changes- 

“ In the Waduman and Mudburra tribes, inliabiting the country 
between the Daly and Victoria Rivers, they have die same idea of 
spirit children, wiiom they call Ngaidjan^ existing in the form of 
little frogs. The Waduman believe that, in the far past times lliat they 
call Jahulwiga^ there were two old men named Idakulgwan and 
Imumdadul. They were brodiers, and came from the north-east. 
As they travelled along they met an old woman named Ihangaliua, 
or TjoraJ, w'ho came from the salt water country. She had no black- 
fellow, and her totem (Cwaiort) was Eramerigo, or sugar-bag. As 
they came along, the two men made country, creeks, y ams , kangaroos, 
snakes, sugar-bags and many other things that the natives now feed 



on. They also carried with them plenty of or spirit chOdren^ 

and gave some of diem to the old woman Ibangalma^ telling her to 
cake them swzy to other parts of die coTintry and leave them there. 
Tliey said, Ya moinja l<tia iiifigm, N^gaidjan afioa^a tjjunia angeiir^ 
whi^ means, you go away to another country^ w'here you stop leave 
Jfgaldjim beldnd^ She did so, and the natives say that, w'hen leaving 
them behind, she g;ave them their totems. They grew up and were die 
first blackfellows, men and women. Wlsen they died their spirits 
became entered lu^ras^ and W'ere bom again. Each 

N^gaUJim knows ^^hich is ihe right iuirra to enier, and will not go 
into a wTTong one. Each NgaiJjont abo, lias one special place, called 
Poaridju, the equi^'alent of the Nanja^ of die Antnta, which ts its 
normal stopping place, diough, of course, if it chooses to do so, it can 
move freely about the country. Before going into a luira each 
Ngaii^an enters, and stays for a dme, in its rnother's totermc animal 
or plant. If the mother be Emmerlgo, or sugar-^bag, then it goes into 
dlls, if a yam then into a j'am, and so on. Sometimes a woman, w hen 
digging for yams, liits one with her stick, and may hear die baby 
Ngisuffan crying out, or, if she hits a goanna, she may hear the chlid 
speaking inside it. 

Ibangalina finally went to a place now called Haj'wurd Creek, 
and, later on, the tviro brothers Idakulgiwan and Imumdadui came up 
and stopped there. Tradkton rebtes that Idakulgw^n married 
Ibangalma, and that they had a great many children. First of all they 
had a boy named Giblongwa, and then another \Vidba, and a third 
called Tjubulma. Each of these three lias been reincarnated and is now 
alive. The two old people lived a long time as, respectively, Malukaand 
Muluru. Their NgaiJjan liave undergone remcamarion, but ate not, 
at present, represented in the tribe* The two old men Idakulgwan 
and Imumdadui remained at Hayward Creek, where they are now 
represented by two stones, whilst another, at the head of the Flora 
Creek, represents Ibangalina. It appears as if a generation, at least, 
is allowed to elapse between any two successive reincarnations. 
One of our informants, for example, called Alwairi, was the rdneama^ 
tion of a brother of his iahaj that is his father^s father* Al^-uirib 
young daughter, named j\Liidjangba, is the reincamaiion of a woman 
of the same name who was her mother^s mother. 

" In the Anmta and other Central tribes it is only, rebtively, a few 
members of the tribe who actually bear the names of old ancestors, 




but in these more northern coasral tribes there is a constant succession 
of the names, and every individual, ivithout eicception, is the 
reincarnation of some special ancestor. 

“ I was much interested in finding amongst the Kakadu and allied 
tribes noi only a very firm and most definitely expressed belief in 
die reincarnation of ancestors and in the absence of any necessary 
relation between sexual connection and pR^readon, but also a curious 
paialJel to the Amnta idea of Eniniarinia and Animburlnga. 

“As described in the legend associated with Imherombera^ the 
Kakadu believe that the whole country was originally peopled with 
individuals and spirit cliildren w'ho are now condnually undergoing 
rdneamation. What we may call the original spirit, the equivalent 
of the IrumadTiia amongst the Arunta, is called Yalmuru. If we take 
the case of any one individual the belief is as follows. Wlien a jnan, 
and die same, procLsdy, Is true of women and children, dies, the 
Yalmuiu, tliat is die spirit part, after die final burial and mourning 
t^remonies are complete, keeps watch over the hemgra^ or bones. 
After a time tlie Yalmuru, as It were, divides into two, so that we liave 
the oripnal Yalmuru and a second spirit called Iwraiyu. The two are 
disdnet and have somewliat the same relationship to one another as 
a man and Ids shadow, which, tn die native mind, are very intimately 
associated. For a long time they remain together but, the Yalmuru 
desires to undergo reincarnadon, the two leave the ttaogra or bones, 
which are always some distance out in die scrub—often miles away 
from the camp. They go forth together, the Iwaiyu in the lead, the 
Yalmuru behind. Out in the bush they find the natives, who of course 
cannot see them, hunting for food. Tlie Yalmuru takes the Iwaiyu 
and puts it, in the form of a small frog called Pumamunemo, which 
li ves under the sheathes of the leaves of the screw-pine or Pandamis, 
into some food such as fish or ‘ sugar-bag' that the man is searching 
for. It, for example, it be fish, the Yalmunj goes into the water and 
drives them into die man's ckipcKyu or fishing net, if it be mornto or 
‘ sugar-bag *, he guides him to the tree in which the bees have made 
their hive. In either case, as soon as the man has secured the fish or 
mor/no, out jumps die dog, unseen of course by the men. It Is caught 
by the Yalmuru and, together, the two spirits return to their camping 
place. Tile food in which the Iwaiyu w-as placed will be the child’s 
totem. The latter is thus always selected by the Yalmuru and may 
change from one reincamadon to another. As we have seen, when 
dealing with the totems, it often does. Sometimes, when an animal. 


12 * 

such 33 a craccdile or fish, contaijis for a time the Iwaijm and tlie 
animal is spKired^ then the or child to which the Iwaiyu 

5ub5equently gives riscj bears the mark of the ^pear wound. 

'"The natives remm to their camp with the food that they iiave 
secured, quite unconscious of the fact that tiie Yatmuru and Iw-aiyu 
have been out in the bush. At night time the two latter come back 
again to the camp and w'atch the men and women. The Iwaijn is 
again in the form of a little frog* When all aie asleep, tlie two come 
up to the camp and enter the where the man and his wife are 

sleeping. Tlie Iwaiyu goes up and smells the man; if he be not a 
" right * father he says, ngari keyaJa^ which means, not this one* He 
tries another one, finds him right and says, ngaripapa^ this one is my 
failior. Then he goes and smells tlie latter^s luBra. Tlie Iwaiyu gets 
into her hair, then feels her bt^asts and says, kpmgo ngari imyUj these 
are my mother's breasts; ngari tins ts my mother. Tiieti he 

comes down and goes into the woman. The Yalmuru returns to the 
old camp. Every now and then he comes and looks ar the woman, 
but does not speak. Wlien it is evident that the woman is going to 
have a child, the YaLmum conies up to the camp at night time and 
tells the father that the child is there and wliat its name is and also its 
totem. He tells the father diat he must not give it any other name ex¬ 
cept the one that he mentions, because that is the child wiiliin his wife. 

" Ungara, a Kakadu native, told us exaedy w^hat happened in liis 
own case. When his father's brother died his If&tQgra^ or bones, were 
left for some time in a tree, not very far from the camp at which lie 
died, but, bter on, they were carried more than 20 miles away 
and placed in a Banyan tree overhanging a water pooU Ungara, who 
had his wife Obaiya and one child with him, was once camped near 
this place. He threw his cAipoiyu, or net, into the W'acer and left it 
there for some little time- Tlicn he gathered long grass stalks and went 
into die water to drive the foh into the net* He did not know that die 
Yalmuru had already done this, and that die Iwaiyu was in one of 
the fishes. The net was so heavy that he called out to Obaiya to come 
and help him lift it out on to the bank. While they were domg this the 
Iwaiyu jumped out and was caught by the Yalmuru and tlieti they 
both went back 10 the bones. Ungira and his wife Obaiya took the 
fish out and carried them to their camp in dilly bags. Tliere were a 
good many other natives camped abouu Tliat night, while diey were 
sleeping, die Yalmuru and Iwaiyu came into the camp, and, after 
examining the man and woman, as previously describe^ the 



Iwaiyu went imo Obaiya- Wliile telling us this Ungaia mimicked 
exactly die actions of ihe Iwaiyti going first lo the fatlier tliett to 
the mother. Later on the Yiilmuru came one night and whispered as 
follows in Ungant^s earj cAipoiya yap& araji^ the fish went 
inside your net; jUfuI wijjem^ it was full up; muiiira Aialilia 
nguin^immsj your child was diere; hau murakamora 

nar^ma^ give it the name Nfonmuna murakamora; j€r€iptmga 
kuntaritja^ its totem is kimSaritJa (a small fish) ; We/a kor<^gora €^e 
msrama by and by do not look out anotlier name; Monmuna 

muraknmora ng^myirrtrrta ingordua ^^7/^ Monmuna mtirakamora 
is the child inside your inbrct. 

“ When the child is young the Yalmuru watches over it. If tt 
strays away from camp and gets lost in the bush^ the Yalmuru guides 
it back and, later on, when die child has ^own into a man, the Yalmuru 
still helps it^ in fact a good deal depends on die Yalmuru because^ if 
it be not vigihnt, some other hosdle one may work evil magic against 
the individual associated with die Yalmiinj*s Iwaiyu, Finally, when 
the individual grows really old, the Yalmuru comes some night and 
whispers in his ear, Iwmyu ng^myimma hmlilhi unkortgora^ T^ahtnin 
ngeimh^j parJa niomda^ ngainma bom momda ngemybnma 

jeretpunga kortgora \ which means, Iwaiyu, you look after a child, ray 
back bone and thiglis are no good, my eyes are no good and sore, you 
look after die Jereipunga (totem)^ In other words the Yalmuru is 
supposed to tell the Iwaiyu, that is, the spirit w'ithin the man, that 
he^ the former, is worn out and that the Iwaiyu must take on the part 
of providing for a new child being bom, and must also look after its 
totem. As tile natives say, barang^i Yalmuru wur^i ge^ the old Yalmuru 
is done for completely; Iwaiyu nig€ri Yalmuruy the Iwaiyu is the new 
Yalmuru. It is really radier Ufce a very crude forerunner of the theory 
of the continuity of the germ plasm* Tlie old Yalmuru splits, as it 
w'erc, into two^ one half^ the Iwaiyu, peraist^Sj the other finally dis* 
appears* In its turn the former becomes transformed into a Yalmuru 
which again splits; one half remains, and the other perishes, but there 
is an actual spiritual continuity from generation to generation. 

It TAill be seen from the above how very definite the ideas of die 
Kakadu tribe are in regard both to the fact that the child enters die 
woman in spirit form without any reference whatever to sexual inter¬ 
course, and also to the fact that the cliUd within the woman is tlie actual 
representative ol one special individual amongst the old ancestors/*^ 

^ IbitL, 



The following account, by G- H. Wilkim, relates to an unnamed 
tribe living in Arnhem Land on the Gulf of Carpentaria.* 

'■ Among the natives polygamy is practised extensively, and wives 
are acquired as gifts from friends and in compliance with a complicated 
tocemic system. It is genciatly arranged that young girls are ^ven 
to old men, and young men get wives beyond tlie child-bearing age.... 
Tlie belief about spirit children is thought by some scientists to be 
held by many of the aboriginal tribes. Several of the Arnhem Land 
natives told it to me as being true. They said that alt children are 
first of all controlled by spirits which roam the bush, and that they are 
tinder the guidance of snrious controb^stich as emu, crows, pand^us, 
turtle, etc. Women are not able to see these spirit children, but men 
can see diem, and when a married man sees the spirit of a child under 
control of a suitable totemic guide, be it bird, tree, or fish, he will send 
Ins wife to die place where tlie spirit cliiid was seen and the child will 
enter the woman, to he bom in due time. Because the father was the 
first to see the child, he is in a position to know its totem, and he alone 
has tJie right to name the child after it is bom.*’ 

Concerning the beliefs of the tribes of the Daly River district, the 
Multuk MuUuk, Madngella, Marithiel, Nangiomeri and Moiil, Stanner 

** [t is dear . , . that two theories of sex exist side by side: (n) 
a mystical theory of the type commonly found in Australian cultures, 
and (i) 3 barely understood, confused s'crslon of orthodox theory 
learned from 'whites. The emphasis in belief ranges from tribes like 
the Mulluk Mulluk and Madngella, which have completely forgotten 
their own mystical theory (which undoubtedly existed) to bush tribes 
with only the most imperfect knowledge of white beliefs, fci tribes 
(like die Marithiel) whete the beliefs co-exist in some definite form, 
the framing of the question governs the ans’wer one receives. 
According to die Nangiomeri, mamhiry or spirit childien, enter a 
■woman 'with certain types of food, or while she is bathing, or crossing 
a stream. originally came out of a rock from which a spring 

gushed in dream-rimes, and now are to be found in all permanent 
■water. They sometimes invst trees, but always stay near water and 
near ■women. Old people sometimes see them, but never young people. 
An interesting distinction is drawn betw'cen (i) a child’s fadur, /.e., 
the social father, or husband of the child’s mother, and (a) the man 
who ‘ finds * die child, Le,y finds and ^ves to die woman the food 

^ C.. fL WilUi^, Auitr^Ea^ 1197, 



con$ideretl 10 be responsible for her pregnancy. Many men am thus 
point out children whom they ‘ found *, but who have ottier * fathers *, 
The distinction approximates to that berwefai gmitar and pater. 
In the pure native dieory the sexual act seems to have mostly an erotic 
significance, but in the altered belief it is considered to be in some way 
concerned with pregnancy. How or why is not known. Many natives 
think that mamhir will not enter a woman who has had too much 
sexual association with white men, and they attribute to this the fact 
that so few w'omen now have children. There has been and soil is 
a great deal of se.xual association of white men and black women.” ‘ 
Of the Djamindlung who live along the north-west coastal strip 
of the Northern Territory Stanner states that they are characterized 
by a local patrilineal totemism, each patrilineal totem or wathi liaving 
a local totem centre. ” Conceptional beliefs of the sptridsde type are 
held, and ‘water children’ and ^leaf children', that is, spirit children, 
are common objects of conversation. In dream times i^urkhan^ the 
rainbow' serpen i culture hero, put spirit children in water holes and 
rivers, but whether they inhabit rotemic sites is uncertain, , . . It is 
certain, however, that the important factor determining descent of the 
wahiri is not the accidental location of conception. This may be in 
another man’s Commonly, however, it is within the Other’s 

ysgbalu The natural species Hnki^ by dreams, by dUvinadon, or by 
some other method, with the realization of conception docs not 
necessarily become the wahiri^ although it may. Many of die Djamind- 
[ung nadves seem to be ‘ found ’ in assodauon with other species 
than the walnri. One cannot fail to be deeply impressed by the way 
in which, when doubtful cases arise, natives turn for a solution and 
guide to the sheer principle of patrilineal local horde descent, and thus 
of totems within die horde country. Irregular marriages, conceptions 
and births in other than of the father^ tend to irregularize 

die totemic descent. Nearly always if doubt is felt about a petson's 
totem, natives say; ’ Wliai was his father’s?’ Wlien the 
yaghali is named they say: ‘ Well, his or panUt must be so-and- 

so,’ naming one of the totems centred in die yaghtdi, irrespeedve of 
the place of birth or conception. Djamindjung children are ' found ’ 
in die citstomary spiritistic fashion of the aborigine. It seems to be 
true of the Djamindjung as it is certainly true of the Murinbata to die 
nortli that a child may be ‘ found ’ in association with a natural species, 

* W. £, H. SooEirr,“The Diiy Ri'i’er Tnhes, i Rcpait of Fwicl WoA in Nortl) Auitnlu,** 

Onarua, Jy, 17^8^ 

* ternwry jimitkl a totem cam or ooUnUy; possibly honie CTcmiry. 



usually au edible, and perhaps a totemic species, but be ' given' 
another species for its waiiri Tliis is invariably a (otemic species 
located within Ids father's jngWi, but the species associated with his 
^ finding ^ need not be. 1 W'us unable to determine with certainty if 
this associated species was a totem in the conventional sense or not. 
I could discover no specific term for ir. Possibly it may be a separate 
concepdonal lotem, but natives seem to regard it indifferendy, and 
in no way like the waibi, which may, on the odier hand, itself be the 
species associated with a ‘ regular^ concepdon^ This would seem in 
Itself to be a reason for believing that the conception species which 
is not the direct patrilineal wcliri is not elevated to die rank of a 
separate toiem, and a further such reason is thai one^s waiir! may be 
only a collateral totem of the father, in the sense made cleat below... . 
** The waSiri totem is probably a cult totem.” ^ 

Clearly it is the wa^in winch dcs the child to the yagBaH^ 

whereas the concepdonal object does not necessarily liave any such 
fimedon. It is Stanner^s impression that this tribcj like those of the 
north and north-east, " are in transidon from one sdiemc of totemic 
and social organization to another.” ^ 

[n a subsequent report on the Murinbara,^ the most impottanc 
remaining tribe in the salt-water country west of tlic Daly River in 
the north-w'est of North Australia, Staimer has very clearly described 
the nature of the remarkable changes which are taking place in the 
social organizadon of diis people as a consequence of recent continued 
contacts with neighbouring tribes who have moved into the district* 
The Murinbata are just beginning to adopt the subseciiort system, 
and their ingenuity in adapting this system to their own social structure 
is impressive as well as cxiraordinarily instructive- Wliai is happening 
is that the kjnsldp and marriage systems are altering in a very significant 
way, new totemic associations are being formed, and the subsection 
system is being superimposed on a tribal organization in which the 
major pre-exisiing g^xsups were the local patrilineal hordes, patrilineal 
local totemic clans, patrilocal and patriarclial families, and tw'O 
exogamous patrilineal moieties.^ 

^ W. E- H. SimmcT, " A Ntne w Di^mandjung Kuvlilp and Topcfniinii" vi, 


* IbJiilf 

* W. E- H. Scatmctf, Mairmhua Kiiuhip laad To 11(31111111,“ viij 

In vi^v of SdmEifr'^A rtinarlcabbt Bmone. (be MutiulnEs. it nf iniyr ^T ^ rbil 

|h<y tlfonl ihe iiulcpsidciit can&miaciaD lof D. ^ Da^^iiisQn'ft juulyidcal fEudy Atutiraliaii 
En termi of ^eogniphipJ diflnbutkm dieory^ nsJcaiCp m mpect of die siili- 
KBtiofi lyiioo (Tfu ^Ctftmn Ifuattaafij, PEhtl^dphtt^ 

R^ddure^Ero^n Iw critkir^ ihs. oieihodl of DiVui^D'a iliidy, ]}ui Smjscf'i 



The Muritibata believe in the pre-existence of naritnarit spirit 
children, which Inhabit water, hollow trees, Ic^s, the leaves of trees, 
even the wind. They are invisible, mobile, can be blown by the wind 
or ride its chairing currents to distant places. They can leave their 
spirit centre to follow the woman they are to ferdllzic. Several different 
kinds of spirit children are distinguished. One such is wsjkal 
muluiiihiineL, or * leaf children those bom as a result of 

impregnation by a ruvitnarii from the leaves of certain trees. These 
arc a term applied to anything undesirable, bad, deformed, or 
diseased. Such children are Id Lied by being buried in die ground. 
Single girls are particularly liable to conceive from wahti wiya, 
^omen will not shake the leavs or brandies of trees for fear of 
disturbing and being impregnated by these muiuatkumt. The 
naranarii do not Inhabit nakiunar totem sites, but have their own 
spirit centre at Yangantha in the district edied Wakahjinung in 
Murinbata country near the Fitzmaurioe River, a place w'here stones 
are said to be shaped like a duld. The affixation of waJtal (children) 
10 the local name Tjlnung is signiiicant. The stones of Yangantha 
are tnliabited by a naiitmirit population which can be incieas^ by 
the performance of die appropriate ceremonies. Tliis ts not apparently 
the privilege of a small cult group. Anyone by beating the Yangantha 
stones witlt a bunch of leaves and uttering three or four rimes the 
words : * S^s-s-t i ^fumud^z rmia Jtmai * can assure the continuance 
of the child-spirits. These ceremonies aie called ia/tgawar or 
rumgawar and seem to resemble the well-known tulu and intichiuma 
increase ceremonies. These rocks are the mytliological spirit centre 
of bodi healthy and sidt jwrrmarir, who were placed there in die 
olden dream-time by the culture-hero of the Murinbata^Kunmanggur, 
die Rainbow-Snake Man, who is thus the giver of life In a teal sense, 
the source of mudi tritol authority, and of tiaditional observances. 
KuJimanggur also placed ziarimaiit in die watercourses, where they 
associate closely with fish. When these fish are caught, die nariinarit 

vindkaiMHi of I>|vldun'i mcUiiKL Raddltl^Brovn 
mcUiaa at one of" oaitfecturai naxHuifuciiVfl "i " the «citnti£c llody,'* he 
or such peop^ M dte Ausmluw Aborigim will laake IftiJe pofiicH unill nx ibandno tlicic 
vcti^pts at OdHqKTUffiJ ireonsUTKlinfl of a pm aboUl wlnich ii*e can obtain no diivict Juiowtcd^ 
In favour of a i.yi{cfnai]'c study of the Eitdliuf ot ft exists ici the pn^sent for ihc pumotc of rcaciiiisH 
toftie of what if really U nflii how U works (“Thif DilTurttm of Culiuw in 

f*^^**' 1,5,70), cieidy ihicne ti ■ place Ln ^nolcgb^ science Ibr h medli^ 

O whadl ^owa i^f capable of Amiviij|!{ m cflnchbikHls nduda lubscmient dcrpct 

knowU^ ii Jacking intcyi^enE confoctUTe kl«d upon 
mo} kwwlHge U li nay eerre to llghl the VEy* Vtrificanon \t (rtJr only fStini of 

dctominmK vaJidiiy of i theory, ««1 in qfte pb«, W, Davidsofl'l dieomicil coniJonOh* 
hn'C Ooffl HbEiadanly vt-rlM. 



are likefy then to impregnate certiim of die womenfolk of the aboriginal 
hunter, usually his wife or hb sister. Tfie spirit child docs not enier 
the woman with food, or by the uterine passages, but under die toe 
nail^ The rmrimarii usually betrays its presence and its intentions, 
but more often to the father than to the mother. It may cling to liis 
shoulder as he returns fmtn a hunting or Bshing trip. It will set his 
muscles rwitching, or whisper in his ear, or tweak his liair* These 
are certain indications of the presence of nariinam. It is tlius that 
children are * found ^ by the father or a near male relarive* If die 
* finder * of a is the husband of the woman who gives birdt 

to a child, die diild wtII speak of the fadier as lamala W, * my 
shoulder/ A mother's brother is called by die child whom lie found 
mlnga riai^ literally * my wood \ Sexual intercourse lias an erotic 
Significance only, and is not considered to have any esseniiial relaijon 
to conception, except that only women who liave been deflorated can 
conceive. Even before puberty sex experience in aboriginal diildrea 
is common. Since all ^rls after puberty have continued sexual 
experience, all then are ripe in native eyes for motherliood, and can 
by accident, or careless ness in dealing wi^ miJimtAtimi, be impregnated 
by na/iinarh^ Tilts nuiy liappen within or at any distance outside the 
pamlineal iIa^ A rnan*s ^ w'ater " (his nura), the biliabong or water¬ 
course from which his riarufuirit came, need not be in Ids own 
Tlie location of die nura, and die natural species with which the 
naiimarii wTis associated when found by the ^ther, do not seem to 
have any essential relation with nab^/nar * inheritance. It is interesiing 
to find that each narimork needs a fatlier as well as a tnodiet- Some 
man has to find it. Only wiya leaf children are fatherless, 

** When asked his * dreaming', a Murinbata tends to give the 
names of several totemic species. These are all the naJtumar of his da. 
Tliore seems to be no belief that totem sites arc inhabited by spirit 
children, so tliat children are not ancestoi:^ incarnated by tatemic 

Tile following native accounts tlirow much light upon their 
conception beliefs of the Murinbata. 

A native named Kulamburt and his brodier were out shooting 
game for a white man when tliey saw suddenly the apprition of a 
naritnark riding a horse. The spirit child c^led out and frightened 
the men, who ran away. Later they shot a turkeys, w^ounding it in 

^ <£i, A nun’’* ruther'sL boidA f^ upfr y, ivKidi u hiii ulitn. 

* lliiC patriliaGaliy inlifirii^ local toroo. 

• W. E. H. Stanner, icc^ dt, 



the moutli. The gun, which was defective, burst. 'Hie aaritanrii 
was thought to have done this. Subsequently Kwuriyan, tlie wife of 
Kulamhurt’s brotlter, concdvicd and a girl, Kanbunin, was born 
three months later. Kanbunin speaks of Kulamburt as riinga nor. 
Her teeth are sliglitly deformed, and this is thought to have be^ due 
to the wounding of tlie naritnarit by the exploding gun. Kanhunin's 
rtaiumar totem is the sugar-bag, yfmf, not the turkey (niiaiJmygoi.) 
Both happen to be Tiwunggu totems, but ijttui is the of Kan- 

bunin’s father, and she dms inherits it. She could, informants say, liave 
been found in association with a Kartjin species. Tliis would notfnatter, 
became it could not be her nakumar^ A ILirrjin woman’s diild must be 
Tiwunggu, even when found in association widi a Kartjin naht/nar. 
Anotlier Murinbata native who went to Darwin as a police witness 
took lus wife with him, A wind sprang up from the south one night 
and blew bis clothes and paper money outside his hut. Both man 
and wife immediately associated this event widi the arrival of a 
tutritnant on the wind from Murinbata country. Later the w'oman 
became pregnant. The child was ^ven the lather's nakutnar, 

“ Three months before KamoJ was bom a kangaroo {kumhii) 
was killed with a spear. The rumtnarit associated widi die kangaroo 
must also have been wounded for at birth Kamoi was seen to lave a 
mark in die place where the kangaroo had been pierced. Kamoi’s 
lotem is not himhit but nhtUy the turtle, her father's nahiifiar** ^ 

From tliese two native accounts it is evident that the Murinbata 
do HOI consider it necessajry for the species which becomes the 
patrilineal nakumar 10 be that which was ^sodated wi%h one's con¬ 
ception^ although it may be* The conception agent is not regarded 
as a totenij or at least so it appearsj, and the place of conception may he 
anywhere, either within or outside the patrihneal The pttem h a 
common enough one throughout Australia, and b in essentials of a 
striking homogeneity in north-west Northern Australia. 

Tliere are several points relating to the procreative beliefs of the 
Murinbata which require to be noticed here^ Tile first is the belief 
that the usual avenue by whidi a spLrii child gains entry into a woman 
is beneath her toe-nail, presumably her big toe-naiL There is 
apparently no belief relating to the entry of a spirit child through 
any other part of a woman’s body^ or by any other means* As far 
as I am aware such a belief has only onoe before been reported in an 
Australian tribe, and it U of Interest to note that this tribe, now 

^ ibttip 



probably extincE, was the far dtsiant Nimbalda of the extreme north 
of South Australia, among whom the belief prevailed that the 
spirit child entered the woman under the nail of the thumb or 
that of the big toe. Since die majority of investigators who have 
taken pains to enumerate the avenues customarily followed by the 
spirit child in entering a woman among the various tribes described 
by them omit any mention of this particular one,^ the occurrence of 
this same belief among sudi far separated tribes as die Nimbalda and 
the Murinbata is worth bearing in mmd in considering the division 
of cultural traits within Australia. 

Wliat is of more importance for our purpose is the &ct that, 
according to Stanner^ intetcourse among the Murinbata b held to 
bear no essential relationship to conception or cliildbirtb. ft is also 
of great interest to note that in the case of the girl Kabunin the period, 
according to Stanner's informant, wliich elapsed from her conception 
to her bird] lasted altogedier tbiee months. Such a statement cerrainly 
serves to lend support to the idea that the Muiinhata are unaware of 
the relationship between intercourse and childbirth, although even 
under the conditions described this conclusion does not necessarily 
follow. It would not follow, for instance, if there existed a general 
belief that the parents of a child simply gi^netaie its body, but that 
the soul enters it at a subsequent time ; there is, however, not the 
slightest eWdence of die existence of such a belief among die Murinbata, 
and hence our original conclusion is on the available evidence a quite 
legitimate one. 

^ 'llhc l>elid£ HjuzmI among £he Mii^zuni of ihc Hops RIvet di&tncE (saep, 117) that N 
jptrir cfilld may a VLirmn through htf toa is prvwiEy 10 Em da»«id vim the 
Iwief held hy Morinbou and ^timbak£a (ux p. C91}. Ser abo die bcHof of ihc FoTicst 
River Tiibei (jp^ iSo) tint ai ^rit dii]d nuy cntcf a womani dtroaidi ihc fooL 

Chapter V 




Bdbr« t "vras bom oui of my toother^ gukkd 

My embryo has never been [prpki^ nothing could overlay ii* 

For h the nebula cahetcd to an orb^ 

Tbe long sW strata piled to rest on it, 

Vasi vegetables pve is susEentnce, 

Moiutrous saiLToids transported li in their mouthj and dcpouted it widi care, 
All forces hxic been steadily employed to complex and ddighi fOC, 

Now on iMs spot 1 stand wiih my robust soul." 


W, E. Roth is respotisible for the vety interesting account of the 
procreative beliefs of the i^tive tribes of North Queensland which 
follows hcre.^ 

Ori^wi of Man. TAd Jirst Ahoriginah . — In the beginning Anjir was 
lying in the shadow of a thickly-leaved tree. He was a blackfeUow 
with very targe buttocks, but peculiar in that there was no sign of any 
orihee. Ydpan happened to be passing by at the tiine, and, notidng this 
anomaly, made a cut in the usual place by means of a piece of quartx- 
crystal, with the result that the evacuations were cacpdled and spread 
over the surface of the ground. AH blacks were thus originally bom 
from Anjir’s dung,® Ydpan went southwards, and has never been 
heard of sineCi Anjir was buried underground aAet hehad * breeded" — 
the inteqjreter's expression—all he wanted to*”® (The Koko-warra of 
Princess Charlotte Bay*) 

** It was out of the local river whence men and women originally 
sprung, but on their first appearance there was no specialisation or 
differentiation of sex: the stiff spear-giass gave the males their 
distinctive anribute w^htle the two labia majora remind the girls of 
their early peregrinations along the two river banks. (TuUy River,) 

^ Roih, '^Supfndliaa^ MjgJe:, ind Medldw, Nortli Qu^^ofllaisd 
SaUftinS. ScaxEi^'i Depirtmciif, 

* the Kaixii!.yer{ cf Sotcdi ibc Eultun; nero WstniisgtH it nkl do Iuve 

btffl^gr^ncnd firan hh moibcr'f warocfici. Sea Taplln, jS* 


* 3 « 

" The moon (kakaia) made die first man and woman^ the former 
out of the same stone used for manufacttmng tomahawks, the latter 
out of box-tree^ The man was completed by rubbing lilm all over 
with white and black ashes, and placing in his inside a stick of 
pandanus-TOOt, which, when required, can be brought into pro- 
mtnenoe. Hie woman was rendered subtle and ^ft by rubbing 
her with yams and mud; a ripe pandanus fhiit was enclosed in her 
belly to produce her courses; to finish her distinctive features she 
was slit up with a sharp edge of a flat mangrove-toot. (Proserpine 
River.) ^ 

" Sexual History, Coaaptusn not ttecessarily doe to copstlaism ,— 
Although sexual connection as a cause of conception is not recognised 
among the Tully River blacks so far as they are themselves concerned, 
it is admitted as true for all animals;—^indeed this idea confirms them in 
their belief of superiority over die brute creation. A woman begets 
children because (a) sbe has been sitting over the fire on which she has 
roasted a particular spedes of black bream, which must have been 
given to her by the prospective fether, (&) she has purposely gone 
a-hunting and caught a certain kind of buU-frog, (r) some man may have 
told her to be in an interesting condition, or (tf) she may dream of 
having had a child put inside her. 

“By whichever of the Eibove meLhods the child is conceived^ 
whenever it eventually appears, the recognised husband accepts h 
as his own without demur. A sinilkr belief holds good amongst die 
KJa blacks of the Proserpine River, but here it is the medicine-man 
(warwinjala% originally informed hy who tolls [he woman^s 

father or the woman herself that she is about to be with child. When 
twins occufj, the second cdiild is accounted for by the moilier having 
been told to be in an interesting condition by a rnedidne-mw 
belonging to another countryj and with whom both parents are 
accordingly correspondingly angry^ 

At Cape Grafton it is a particular spedes of pigeon which brings 
the already manufactured b^y to the mother in the course of a 

“ Injhnt^ Ae fashioned hy spirits and then inseneJ in the — 

Nguta-Nguta^ also knouTi as Talpan, are the nature-spirits living in 
the dense scrub and undergrowth who send the babies along. The 
Cape Bedford blacks believe that these spirits have very long hair^ 

^ tblcip t% * Momh, the fpiril oft deexased penoOf 

* Ibid.« ax. * 


with big and two sets of «yes, one in front and the other behind^ 
i-c. tliey hear and see everything; diey are visible only to certain 
old men, bat disappear into the ground wlienever anyone else comes 
near I and are like human beings in tirat they have wives, children, 
and spears. The same natives say iliac babies are made in that portion 
of the w^cst in which the sun sets, and in tlieir original condition are 
full grown, but in their passage into their maternal homes take the 
form of a curlew (the spur-winged plover) if a girl, but of a pretty 
snake if a boy* Wlien once mside the mother, baby takes on human 
shape again, and notliing more is seen or heard of liiai particular 
bird or snake. When at night the blacks hear the curlew crying out, 
they will say: " Hallo I there^s a baby somewhere about-" In the 
case of a boy, the woman will probably be out hunting, and suddenly 
sing out that she sees the snake in tpiesdon, and, as often as not, run 
away: her mates, even she herself, wiQ peiiiaps join in looking to 
see where the serpent has got to, and turn over rocks, leaves, and Iog:s 
in their fruitless search“it can nowhere be founds and that is a sure 
sign that it has readied its destination, and the future mother knows 
now that she is pregnant* It Is tlie hu^l^d here who asks for tlie baby 
to be sent as a punishmeiu when vexed wdth his wife.” ^ 

" Anje-a origirmlly made by Thunder, is die individual, according 
to the Peiuiefather blacks, who fashions the piccaninnies out of sw^amp- 
mud, and inserts them in the bellies of the women. He is never seen 
but can be heard kugliing in the depths of the bush, amongst the rocks, 
down in the lagoons, and along the mangrove swamps : when he is 
heard, ilie blacks say * Anje-a he laugh: he got him pjccaninny \ 
Women do not know when the infents are put inside iliem—tiiey 
only feel diem subseipiendy—because ihey may be placed in posiiion 
during the daydme, at night, and in die course of a dieam- Before 
actually inserting these mud-babies in the women, however, Anjc-a 
makes the boys travel in a round-about way across the bush, iheir 
forms being already moulded into shape, whereas he causes the girls 
to pass over a piece of wood stretched crosswise, ai a certain height, 
over the path he instructs them to travel hy: as each gbl sireiches 
her legs over the cto^piece, she gets split in the fork and is now 
compleEed. For cutting the posterior oriike in bodi sexes An|e-a 
uses a piece of wood from the Jlcacia rot/til Bail. Sometimes an 
accident befalls these infants before they get inside their human 
mothers, e-g., they may catch one of thdr feet in a log, and so be 



bora with various deformities (club-foor, etc.). When the woman 
has plenty of room inside, twins ate sent. Thunder, who can also 
make diildien out of swamp-mud, manufactures his all left-handed, 
which can thus be distinguished from Anje-a's, who ate all right- 

" On the Proserpine River, it is Kunya who makes the babies out 
of pandanus-roots, and puts them into the woman when bathing. 
He is a nature-spirit most often dwelling in the ground, but he is also 
to be met with below the water-surface, as w-ell as in the rocks and 
caves and in the quiet of the busli. WTien he inserts die inhuit in the 
modier, he puts in it the kuya or vital spirit. 

“Wlven ir is rememhered that as a rule in all these Northern tribes, 
a little girl may be given to and will live with her spouse as his wife 
long before she reaches the stage of pubeny—die relationship of 
which to fecundity is not recognised—the idea ofconcepdon not being 
necessarily due to sexual connection becomes pardy intelligible.'' ‘ 

“ 77ie yhal Principal; Spirit^ Soal^ etc .—On the Tully River, this 
IS associated both with the shadow and with the breath. It goes away 
during sleep, fainting-fits, etc., and returns wdien the person awakes 
or recovers. It is of no tangible substance (' no bones * is the local 
description), and can be heard only at nights. Tlius, for upwards 
of some days after it has taken its departure from the body, it can be 
heard tapping on die tops of their huts, creaking on neighbouring 
branches, etc. Every man has his own Koi, every woman her own 
Ku-inggan“One for each, and good or kid accordingly. After death, 
these can retura to their old homes and friends. The Koi, etc., finally 
goes away into the solitudes of the scrub, where it can be met with 
everywhere; but it does not Inhabit or becomes associated with any 
particular tree, clump of trees, cluster of rocks, cave, or stone, nor 
does it necessarily particularly haunt die burial ground or the locality 
where its late body was cremated. It ts everlasting, so far as the blacks 
have any concepdon of die term, bur, owing to the absence of tanpble 
substance, requires no food, and hence no victuals are put aside or 
prepared for it. Koi (or Ku-inggan) is good or evil, according to 
the disposition of the individual whence it has been relied. But if 
a man is alone by himself, day or night, the Koi of even one of Ids 
deceased lelarives may come to do him harm. On the other liand, if 
it is seen or heard by several blacks togedier no harm arises, for it 
cannot injure the whole lot at once. Indeed, tliese natives are alwayw 

* thill, 13. 



taugbt} or^ rather, have ttnpressed upon them from childhood up, 
the many disadvantages of which an individual, when alone, renders 
himself continually liahle at the instance of these spirits. Good fires 
are the only means these aboriginals have for keeping Koi away. ... 

Animals and plants are not regarded as Itaving any Koi, etc. 

“ Thi Bkiomjielti River nedves have an idea of * something ' being 
associated with the breath or Wau-wti; that when a black dies, is 
unconsdous, or delirious, etc., his wau-w'u—and in tliis expression 
they apparently include his will, and thinking pow'Cis—leaves the 
body and travels about. After an individual's decease, apparitions of 
him may be seen by the survivors, and such a ghost or spiritual 
representation Is called Wu-inggul, Winggul or Topo, but this, 
curiously cnou^, is apparently independent of rhe wau-wu. 
(R. Hislop.) Wti-in^til haunts its late home and present burial place 
where it can both be seen and heard, especially at night when the 
branches creak or whenever any sound, which cannot be otlierwise 
accounted for, is tendered audible. Dogs are reckoned upon having 
thinking powers, etc., or wnu-wu, and bear a sort of relationship to 
their masters, who will often speak of them as their mother, son, 
brother, etc., in addition to mentiontng them by their proper names, 
tliesc being conferred upon them according to the districts whence 
they have been obtained, or to tlie various tiacts of country occupied 
by their owners. When talking about any live or dead shn^ or food- 
plant, the Bloomfield blacks employ the same terms as are used to 
denote a live or dead individual, but they do not ascribe any bread], 
thinking—or wiil-power to it. 

" j4t Cape BeJford, —The belief is fixed in a certain \'ital principle 
Of Wau-wu, associated with the breath, but differing from the 
* something' to which a similar term is applied on the Bloomfield, 
in that it is pan and parcel of the deceased’s ghost or spiritual repre¬ 
sentation. Thu wau-wu is within the human body, both sleeping and 
waking, and only leaves it when death occurs; it may hover around 
its burial place for a time, and may be seen by and communicate 
Wfith the living. Thus it often shows itself to one of the deceased's 
blood-relatives or Intimate friends, to tell him who it was who sent 
him out of this life, and to ask for revenge. Again, if a man is 
travelling all alone, the wau-wu perhaps of his fether or some friend 
beats him company to protect him. from an ambuscade: he may 
probably see nothing, but hU spiritual guide warns him to hide, and 
let lijs enemy piass by. It may, however, come w'tth hostile intent. 


and make a person wa-tcfd?- When wau-wu finally ceases visiting 
its late owner'^s grave^ tt travels in the direction of the easi^ and enters 
a white person i these blacks will often took for a resemblance to 
some deceased tribesman amongst the Europeans, and often wonder 
how and why it is that we have forgotten all about our aboiigina] 
ancestors. Nature^spirits fAfonya) all come under the same category 
as wau-wu, in that they are originally derived from people deceased^ 
and usually only leave their haunts in the forests and caves at night. 
The old men who are nor afraid can both see and even spear, but not 
destroy them (as In the local burial ceremony); they can also converse 
with them, and be warned by them of various dangers; but w-omen 
and children are afraidj and never see them. It is interesting to note 
that the lower animals possess wau-wu : for instance, if an individual 
happens to beat a dog—dogs have human names here—more 
unmcrdfrilly than usual, it is of common occurrence to hear a 
comrade say something to the following effi»:t;—*Look out 1 you are 
thrashing him os if be bad no wau-wu.' Plants are not recognised 
as having any life or consciousness.* 

" On the Petmefatker Rivtr the vital principle, etc., the Ngai and 
Cho-i are not connected with the breath but with the heart and 
after-birth. This ngai, which the blacks can feel palpitating, talks 
to them, and tells them when it is hungry or thirsty or wants to rest: 
it can even talk to them during sleep and thus causes dreams. It has 
nothing to do with the breath or Wanji (a tenn also applied to a gust 
of wind), which leaves the body first: it is only some time after 
dcaih that the ngai takes its departure from the corpse, and if a male, 
passes into his children, both boys and girls equally. Indeed, not until 
a person's father dies does he or she possess an ngai; if the child dies 
before its father, it never lias one t in the case of a female who might 
possess one it passes at her deaili from sister to sister, and when no 
more of these relatives are left to receive it, it goes * along mangrove:, 
finish altogether ’. Again, not only does ngai separate from the body 
after death, but also during fainting-fits (e.g., those produced by 
collapse, loss of blood, etc.) and other forms of unconsciousness: 
to cure a fainting-fit, etc., the friends all around will start stamping 
with their feet to get ngai back agaiti, just as foey do with similar 
purpose in the case of a corpse. On the other hand, from the time 
when Anje-a puis him or her into the mother’s womb, everybody 
possesses a cho-t, which occupies the same quarters and has simiW 

^ Wu j docni jfud a ipiriL * 1S. 


objective sensations as tbe ngai: it differs, however, from tJie latter 
in that a portion of it staj's in tlie after-birth, the remainder leaving die 
corpse ai death to wander about for ever in the bush. Freed dins at 
death from its connection with die body it can be sometimes seen, 
often heard, and ctatainly smelt, ll interrelated as to die appearance 
or qualities of a cho-i, the natives will refer to their shadows, which, 
though called by another name, constitute the nearest approa ch they 
can get to rendering themselves intelligihle. Wlien die medicine¬ 
men go away for a spell in the bush they are believed to talk to tb f^ 
cho-i, ivith whose assistance they are supposed to control people's 
lives: it should he borne in mind that diese wandering cho-i 
those portions of them that were not left in die after-births) are all 
mischief-malcers and evil-doers in that they can make a person sick, 
or even cranky’. And though these cho-i usually wander some¬ 
where in the bush, there are certain hollow trees, particular clumps, 
and others with unusually widespreading branches, etc., which thi^ 
are believed moie or less specially to haunt: thus at night, when the 
leaves are rustling, or the branches crackling, diey can be heard. 
Furthermore, the presence of a cho-i can be recognis^, day or nighi, 
by the nose. During one of my periodic visits lo Mapoon, I was 
afforded a curious illustration of this. A few days after the death of 
a woman in one of the huts, and after the removal of the body, the 
Rev, H. Ney happened to be dressing with carbolic (tn the same 
apartment) ibe wounds of a little boy who had suffered some trivial 
injuries, and in the course of his fritmdly offices spilt some of the acid 
on the floor: tliat same night the occupants were terrorised by the 
deceased's cho-i which they knew was present by the smell. But to 
re^. It has been stated tliat a porrion of the clio-i which Atije-a 
originally puts into tlie baby remains in its after-binli. Now, when 
the cliild is bom into the world, the grandmother takes the after-birth 
away, and buries it in tlie sand, marking the situation by a number of 
twigs stuck in the ground in more or less of a circle, and tied together 
at their tops forming a structure resembUng in shape a cone, Anje-a 
comes along, recognises the spot, and taking die cho-1 out carries it 
to one of his haunts where he places it, and where it may remain for 
years, in a bole in the rocks,ina tree, or ina lagoon. Tliree or four such 
haunts are known tn the nelghhourbood of Mapoon . . . Now, when 
Anje-a actually mokes the mud-baby, which he inserts in the mother, 
he puts in a bit of the cho-i of bis fother if the boy, and that of hts 
father s sister if a girl; when he makes the next little brother or sister, 


he put another bit in, and so on. And although the parenis know 
whose cho-i their of&pnng possesses—-whether its tailier's or its 
Other's dstet^s—they are as yet ignorant of die pamcukr spot where 
it has all these years been imprisoned, and whence it was finally 
released and put in the child’s body hy Anje-a, Tliis informarion is 
obtained as follows:—Wlien the navel-string is cut by the grandmother 
("with a kangaroo-tooth, etc.) the diHerent haunts of Anjc*a are called 
out, and the name mentioned at the moment of breaking tells them 
w'hen the cho*-i was brought. (Tlie navel-string curiously enough 
has two names here: for tlie portion left on the child, and 

anoKthfte for that remaining on the rfier-birth.) The child's own 
country, its * home wiiere it will in the future have the rigjit to h un t 
and roam, is thus determined, not by the place of actual birth, but 
by the locahty where its cho-i had been held captive—situations which 
may sometimes be many miles apart. Hence a baby is sometimes 
spoken of as a Ko (tree)^— 'Akvorra (rock, stone, etc.)—or Ngo-i 
(Iresh water )—manu (obtained or received from )—agamo (young 
infant), When an individual is finally d^, i.e. lias no cho-i or ngai, 
die corpse as a piece of putrefying matter, ‘aJl finish’, is known as 
F^au-uto, Of Ji-o. Animab and plants have neither ngai or cho-i.” ^ 

Simitar beliefs are to be found among die Proserpine ver blades 
on the eastern coast.^ 

The above account of the procreative beliefs of tiie natives of 
North Queensbnd provided the first confirmation of the suspidon 
that Spencer and Gillen’s account of the beliefs of the Central tribes 
of Australia were not peculiar to them alone, but were of very wide 
distribution in Australia. 

From Roth’s account we Jeam that the Koko-^varra of Cape 
York Peninsula Jiave an ancestor or culture-hero to whom they 
trace their origin, all blacks being originally bom from his dung. We 
have already noticed diat according to TaplJn the Narrinyeri of 
South Australia have a belief that their culture-hero v.'as bom of his 
mother’s dung without a fadier. Among the Koko-warra, however, 
we may look upon ” Yalpan ” as the great ” father ” who caused 
them to come into being, and the blackfellow Anjir as the medium 
through whom they passed into being, arising from his dung. Again, 
we see here diat, as in the majority of the cases we have examined 
thus far, the actual individual from whom the first aboriginals are 
said to have arisen was of die male sex. 

^ Ibid,. 13. 

■ Ibid. t*. 



Among the natives of the Proserpine River the moon is regarded 
as their original progenitor. A simibr belief, we shall find, occitrs 
also among such widely separated tribes as the Kariera in 
Western Australia and the Euahlayi in north-western New South 
Wales in the east,^ 

It is to be noted that the procteadve beliefs of these Queensland 
tribes in general follow the pattern of the beliefs as recorded for the 
tribes living elsewhere in Australia, namely;, the belief in the spiiic 
origin of children. The variatJon$ in the detatb of these beliefs from 
tribe to tribe, or &om horde to horde, in tliis region is of great interest* 
For example, among the TuUy River blanks, and it is to be particularly 
noted that the statement is made expHdtly with respect to them alone, 
the belief in the spirit origin of children is a:ssodated with the notion 
that animals come into being as a result of physical or sejoial connexion* 
Here only human beings Iiave spirits, or Jtu/, animals do not have 
Kiti At Cape Bedford, however, animals are regarded as having 
spirits, just as men have, and although Roth nowhere explicitly 

says so his temarks would seem to imply that here, among the Cape 
Bedford blacks, animals are also regiarded as bdng of spirit origin j 
it is difficult to li^d Roth otherwise* It b clear, however, that the 
Tully River blacks believe in the separate origin of men and aniinals* 

The knowledge of the letadonship between intercourse and 
pregnancy In animals said to be possessed by the Tully River blacks 
has excited a good deal of suspicion in the minds of some writers as 
to the reality of these natives* beliefs in so far as they apply to humans* 
If, it is argued, these natives recogni^ the lelatiomhip between 
intercourse and pregnancy among the lower animals, how 5s it that 
they have failed to recog^iize the same relaiion as applying to them* 
selves? The answer usually returned is tliat they have, but because the 
fact is incompatible with dogma it is not admitted, and even denied^ 

Tins view of the facts as reported by Roth is, of course, an extremely 
reasonable one to take, assuming that w^e may rely upon tlie soimd- 
ness of Roth's report; discussion of titis viewpoint must, however, 
be deferred until a later chapter^ 

The deep and vivid reality which their procreative beliefs have 
for the natives is well brought out by Rotli*s account of die behavioiif 
of the Cape Bedford natives when they animatedly turned over rocks 
and leaves and logs in the endeavour to search out the snake which 
it was thought might have w^ished to enter some woman. 

* See pp. 


Among the Peiinefhiher River natives "we have two creators of 
babies^ Anje-a and 'niunder, Thunder in turn having originaliy 
been the creator of Anje-a. Anje-a makes the n'ght'handed children 
and Thunder the left-handed. Tlie efficient manner in which abnor- 
malities sucii as defonniHes and twins are explained cannot but 
command one's admiration^ for given the premises with which the 
native has to work, the route by which he arrives at his conclusions 
is faultlessly logicaL 

The bodies of the babies to be incarnated are apparently newly 
fashioned, and are something quite independent of the spirit; at 
death, as the natives say, the body is “ dl finisltThe spirit is 
seemingly eternal, except among the Pennelathei River natives w'ho 
seem to hold a highly original view of the spiri t, and the Cape Bedford 
natives who believe that the spirit part of a dead individual becomes 
incarnated in a white person—obviously a late development, but, as 
we shall see, an inevit;d}le one under the given conditions—and lives 
on eternally as a ghost hut does not undergo reincamation. 

The curious belief of the Pennefather River nadves that the ngai 
of the father passes equally to his sons and daughters, but only after 
his death, before which Ills children do not usually possess one, so 
that should a child die before Its father, it dies widiout an ngai, is 
extremely interesting. The woman may transmit her ngai to her 
sisters, should there be no relatives to whom to transmit her ngai, 
it disappears altogether. This bcUef is highly ori^nal, bur quite 
impossible to explain on the evidence available, Anje-a and Thunder 
do not, so it w'ould seem, have anything to do with the spirit part of 
an individual, apart from the secondary procedure already indicated. 
The ttgai is something quite clearly inherited in the ffishton described, 
contingent upon the death of a certain rebrive. The ngai part of an 
individual is merely an animating prindple, a rital principle, of a 
somewhat shadowy nature, and possessing no very de^te character, 
nor is it assoebt^ with any particular individual, it is simply a 
principle, a power. The cAo-r, the spirit part of an individual, is 
insert^ into his body when he is yet in the mother's womb, by Anje-a 
for rigjit-handed, and hy Thunder for left-handed children. A portion 
of the individuafs cAo-i, however, remains in the afterbirth, and it 
is from tliis source that Anje-a and Thunder take their supply of 
cAo-f for ilie inspiriting of other rebtives who may be bom in the 
future. Tlie determination by augury of the place to which Anjena 
or Tliunder had nsirried the afterbirth, cAc-f, apparently serves to 


tkterniine the loiem gf die child as well as its fiitun litintitig 

Spirit incarnation is the rule here and there is no evidence of a 
belief in reincarnation. 

Sir James Fracer has recorded the statement made to him in convem- 
tion by the Bishop of North Queensland^ Dr. Frodsliamt tliat the 
ignorance concerning the relationship between intercourse and 
prt^ancy "is not limited to the Arunta, but is shared by all the 
North Queensland tribes with which he is acquainted, and he added 
that it forms a fact which has (o be reckoned with in the introduction 
of a higher standard of morabty among the aborigines, for they do 
not naturally accept the true explanation of conception and child* 
birtli even after their admission to mission stations^’.^ 

R. H. Mathews writes of the Queensland tribes, “In all the 
aboriginal tribes there is a settled belief in the reincarnation of the 
shades of their predecessors. Conception is supposed to be altogether 
independent of sexual intercourse. When a woman for die fiist time 
feeb the movements of the child in the womb, commonly called 
‘ quickening she takes notice of the spot where this occurred, and 
reports it to tljc people present. It is believed that the spirit of some 
deceased progenitor has just at the moment entered the woman*s 
body. Tile entry may liave been through some one of the natural 
openings, or tlirough any part of the skin. When the child is bom, 
it will be assigned the totemk name of the mythic ancestor belonging 
to the parucular locality.”^ 

The implication of these somewhat generalized statements is that 
there exists a dehnite belief in reincarnation among the Queensland 
tribes, at least the recognition of the quickening" as the moment of 
entry of a deceased progenitor's spirit is open to such an interpreta-' 
tion and, as ii stands, to no otlier. It is, however, extremely doufarjul 
whether the belief in reincarnation exists among any of the Queens¬ 
land tribes, certainly sucli a belief has never been reported for any 
of them. Mathews's statement is therefore to be received with the 
greatest caution. 

The following pass^cs from Miss Ursula McConnell's report of 
field work among the Wik-Muntan tribe of the Cape York Peninsula 

' D ^ 04 awnii af ihc 4 uiWiJian AlwnginE*," Man, xJ. (90^ 14!. 

^ r' ** Rihflfilo jg)ica 3 Nolcs aa tht \b0tigu3aJ Tribes of 

p^itt Jeurnat^ sot, 1904^—f, tj + “ Ntvta on Some N^livc Tribes of 

ToMmic SyUEin in AuMnJin,“ dit Arntr^e/i jfftiifuariat, zxriU, 190^ 141. 



on the Gulf of Carptiotaiia^ who tJocupy a tract of brnd below the 
junction of the Coen and Archer and the Pretender and Holy rod Rivers, 
throw' an interesting light upon the procreative beliefs of this tithe. 

" Tlie piJwaiya ^ has a sacred place of origin^its auwa, where it resides 
and whence it issues forth. These suwa or totem-centres are £Omc~ 
dines die nests and breeding places of birds, animals and plants 
concerned, and arc always situated on the hunting grounds of the 
clan to which they belong, where the toietnic species is abundant. 
Each cuwa has its own peculiar diaractcrisdcs. Trees, bushes, rocks, 
naturally or artihcially arranged, ant-beds or holes in the ground in 
the vicinity of the niiwn are sacred to the totems. Tlieie is always water 
near by in the shape of river, creek, lagoon, water hole, sv'amp, or 
well at die bottom of which tlie pulwafya resides and into which the 
dead of the clan are believed to go. Tltey arc said to play about 
the vicinity of the auva in the form of ilieir totem. This is perhaps 
why plants or animals are protected near the ouwa of their repre- 
scncadve totem and why the killing of an animal or the injuring of a 
plant near its outi'd is not only strictly forbidden but believed to be 
attended by grave consequences. It is to these ghosts or spirits iliai 
appeal is made during the ceremony carried out at the asiwa to ensure 
a plendiul supply of the totemic object. That the clan should feel 
its economic dependence upon its forbears is natural, since it is from 
tliem that the knowledge and skill required for the pursuance of 
economic aedvities and their am and crafb is handed down. This 
aspect is illustrated in the ghost clan, wljcre the palwidya are human 
beings who are said to have tauglit men die arts of building tlie dams 
and fisli-traps and cooking the fish in ant-bed ovens,” - 

”A short distance from Pantimwa^ is the baby {puka^ auwa* 
Milkwood trees are hit for girl babies and gum trees for boy babies. 
Women who desire cliOdren take part in the ceremony and as die 
trees are hit their names are called: 

” *... Baby (wa^a) ! Babies go to all women everywhere 1 Go 
inside (a woman's name is called) J A girl baby first and a boy baby 
after 1 Baby {walyd^ I A baby come to me I ’ 

Women who do not want babies keep awray from this ceremony, 
and are afraid to swim in the lagoon or drink the water in case they 
should become pr^nant.”^ 

^ totem. 

■ U. "Tht Wik-Majflkin Tribe,” pazt Uj L. [930, 1^7, 

■ ft tmoU 1^000^ 

* 200 . 


There k here dearly no belief in fetncamation. We shall renim 
to a considerarion of the belief of tliis tribe somewhai bter in rhis 

In the following account by Donald F- Tborapson of a recent 
study of the Koko Ya*o who live on the east coast on the I^scoe River 
of Cape York Peninsula, occupying an area north of a line drawn 
fi:om the mouth of the Mitchell River on the west, to Prince Charlotte 
Bay on the east, many features of novel interest botli in regard to the 
social organization and to the procreative beliefs of this tribe are 
presented^ In respect of the latter these are of such impormnce that 
a rather considerable amount of space wiE Iiave to he devoted to the 
body of Thompson's report, in order that the nature of the peculiar 
procreati ve beliefs of this tri^ may be fiilly understoocL 

The Koko Ya^Q ate a typical sdt-water people, they are members 
of the Kwadji p™p!e of eastern Cape Yort The trihe is divided 
into two exogaoiic mokties, called Koiyana and Karpeya. The Koko 
Ya 0 are patniineal, tracing their descent in moiety and clan throng 
the &iher. The natives daini to be able to distinguish physical 
differences between the members of the two moieties in the eyes, 
face, hair, and skin* To Thompson no such differences were 
recognizable. It may be noted here that a simibr belief prevails 
among the Arunta.^ 

TAtf YUwio anJ lAe /fere 

‘’Fw-ai (the crocodile), the Culture Hero of the Koko Ya^o was the 
leading figure among the Yikiuo or Wulmpamo, the ancestors of the 
present race. These " Big Men *, as the nadves call them in English 
to^y, were mythical ancestral beings who invented the present 
^ture and traditiona] stock of knowledge* Tliey lived at a dme 
in tlie dim past, generally called by the somewhat nebulous term 
llieral^ ‘ in the be^nning, at first the favourite word on 
which to commence lEe telling of a legend/ ' * 

* * * the native conception of the Yilamo and [heir place lo the 
scheme of life was expressed to me by a man of the closely allied 
OmpeU tribe- * After the Big men, the Middle People lived, last 
we come and we find the white man,* Le* the white man did not 

* Jht Aninia^ 31; Aj^dk E. 

I * fP* ^nranipMEi*yllje Hero Ciqli, U^alkin, and ToMtiiim on Cut Yoriu* 

w K^jroi AfuAnffMogfiiiti ininma, Jbcill^ *Si3l5» 

/waiT ^ 


ejdst in m3rth or tradition, he has no antiquity, hut lias been ‘ Ibund ’ 
by the fathers of the ptesent generation,” * 

"In the days of die Yibmo, minya* (animals) were men. My 
informant stated that diete were some exceptions to this, and Apfoiyu^ 
the dingo, was never a man, and when speaking of iauwa {SteTtiit 
fuscaxa^hi said 'long time Consistent with this is the occuixence 

of this name in the ' sings ' of Twai when carrying kan*tta ^ on his 
back. Implicit in the mythology and the of Twai is the belief 
that Twai, as well as the other Yilamo, were once mortal, not super¬ 
natural beings, altliough they were endowed with powers not possessed 
by men to-day.” * 

" It was Twai who invented the initiation ceremonies; tlie others 
were merely spectators or * helpers'; as my informant himself 
expressed it, all the others were ' working for him % It was he who 
called meetings of the other YUamo to watch him ‘ play and die 
' sings * in the present day ceremonies are those of I'wai. The belief 
of these people in the ancestry of the present race is particularly 
interesting. Like all ptimidve people who are dependent on memory 
and tradition alone, they have no deJinite ideas of the antiquity of 
their race; the present order readies away into die dim past only 
a licde fmher th^ the memory of the oldest of the old men extends— 
to tliai dim, haay period of which the old men were told long ago 
by thdr father's failiers. Beyond that were the Pama Yi’adji, die 
* Middle People * of my old Ompela informant—tbe human ancestors 
who followed the Yilamo and who bridge the gap that they feel to 
exbt between the Yilamo and the present day. The absence of the 
talk of white men from mythology, and tbe that their fathers can 
remember ' finding' him, ate proof of his recent arrival upon the 

“Tbe Wulmpamo handed down their stock of knowledge to the 
Pama Yi'adji who have passed it to the present race. The old men 
in each generation are the guaidians of traditional knowledge, which 
they pass on to die sticce^ng generadon at initiation, in die form 
of * sings' and legends. No Koko Ya*o man would ever t hink of 
doubdng the reality of tbe Yilamo, for every day he has proof of 
their existence, in his totemism and km^a (tabu), as well as in every 

* ** u f. cdledi^v uim ioi jUI ininulsr sUo for mmal as dhniKi bom 

plant* wd vc^Eubk food ** CO. 

* Aji Imdatfj or novict. 



feaiure of the country^ which he knows like a book, and part 
of which is indelibly associated with the Culture Hero and the Toiemic 
Ancestors, From his earliest childliood he has grown accustomed 
to meeting evidences of the activities of and each day lie 

is constantly seeing physical features in his own dan territory— 
boulders, Iveadlands and islands—left by I*wai on his Odyssey, 
giving optical proof of tlie reabty of Pwat, and the deeds recounted 
in the Saga that he lias heard the old men, whom he has every reason 
to revere, tell and re-teU, with flashing ey^. He knows that these 
are full of hmta (* very stroi^^ this one ') j it is brought home to 
him almost from birth in a hundred ways—backed by ktntja that 
mean death to break. To the old men, these things are so real that 
they fre^ently talk of the days of the Culture Hero as vividly as if 
they themselves liad lived them.” ^ 

"Tlie totem centres or totemic stones, at which Intkhiuma rites 
are carried out in tiic normal lotemism, were left behind by the 
Yilamo—typical Australian toiemic ancestors, mythical beings who 
first appeared in the form of men and later assumed animal form. 
These Yilamo performed ejttiaordinary deeds ilte scenes of which 
are often marked by stones ; sometimes the totemic ancestors were 
themselves turned to stone ; hut directly or indireedy they gave rise 
to die koi*ft ufatjamaiL, the ‘story stones' or totem centres of the 
present day,”^ 

'■ Every adult member of the society possesses mo distinct kinds of 
totem w'hich may be classed as follows: 

“ (i) The personal totem, called rmrijitm which he does 

not inherit at birth, but which comes from the mother’s moiety, and 
sometimes from her clan, Concepaonal totermsm is absent, and the 
natives have a knondedge of physiological paternity, evidence of 
whicli will he adduced later. 

■' (a) Clan totems, called pola (father's faiiier, man or woman 
speaking) of which eadi individual has several, and handed down 
from generaiion to genetarion in the patrilineal line. These are 
associated with die Yilamo, and are centred about htPa wa^aman or 
uTuffff (totem centres or ‘ story stones ’), at which ceremonies of 
IntkhiunuM type may be carried out.” ® 

” Every individual, at binh, possesses two spirits. One of these:, 
the ttomtal^ is the *poVya* that pulsates on the head of an in&nt 

^ IbkLt 


(the fontanelle). It resi^ in the body only during early dlildhood 
and tvith the closure of the frontal sutute goes to a place in the mother’s 
countiy called tutrtjinomuulji the pbce of tlie nomtal. The other spirit, 
the or' ghost * as it is most frequently translated, remains in the 
body until deadi, when 11 goes to join tlie ttomialf with which it has re¬ 
mained in intimate association during the dream-Hfe of the individual.”^ 

” The personal totem. .. comes.. . from die mother's moiety by 
augury commencing soon after birth and culminating in the retnov^ 
of an upper central incisor tooth. The avulsion of the tooth is not 
in any way associated with inidadon/' * 

It lias been stated tliat the nomtal is indmately associated with 
die dream-life, and die nartji nomtatiji is also called die nar^i Mulckai- 
nan (the dream place). It is therefore immaterial whether a man 
asks 'n*k.a nomtal wantuna?* (where is your nomtal) or ‘ nono wantuna 
mutJ:mnan ? * (where do you dream ?). Throu^out life, when a 
man dreams^ his mipi goes to his aartji nomiajlji to join his nomtal. 
For this reason he rausi not be awakened from slsp except by calling 
his name from a long distance. Hie natives’ concepdon of sleep Is very 
close to chat of death ; in each the mipi leaves the body to join the 
normal j but in sleep poi’ya still animates the body. If a man has a 
lagoon or watery place as his nor^j nomtadji lie may dream that he is 
swimming there ^lith his nartjimo. If his personal totem is a bird lie 
may dream that he is flying with it, A woman whose nanjimo nom- 
tadji was paH’o (pheasant coucal) told me ihat she drKimed that she 
was flying with ptdTo and that she went widi it to the grassy places 
that die bird frequents at PuU'onon, A man always knew where his 
nomtal was from iiis dreams." * 

“ It has been stated that when a man die his mipi^ wKicli is bound 
up with Iris poi’ya^ goes to join liis nomtal in his nartji nomtadJL 
Soon after death a lighted torch of oniji (Miialeitca bark) U passed 
over and around the body and limbs of the komtoi (corpse), and is 
then placed in the hand of the dead man—^tn the left hand if he is laAo, 
and in die right hand if he is miimijigo.^ He is told to take the torch 
and go home to his own nar^i —dte nartji nomtadji. ' Nomtalbgo 
bad I ’ To your normal you go. When they see a' shoodng star' the 
people know at once that somebody is dead. They follow its passage 
across the sky,crying aloud; *Mil'adJil MiVadJi! MU’adJil Mil'a^il 

^ cv h i a kind cf ■ h gomlly lucd for gborftx 

of dM'' cn. 

* lEnd., 4^-S. * Thar If reapfciivct)' kfi-hanikd or ri^i-hnAilaL 


Aiil’adji/ Miradjil ' If, as of course mosi frequently happens, the 
star merely passes across the heavens, they say that someh^^y from 
another nariji has died, hut if, as once occurred while I camped 
with the Yinijingga tribe on the Sie^^ River, a report is lieard, 
the watchers cry ^Mampa/^ They know that som^ody is dead 
and that his mipi has come to jom liis nomtif! in their own country* 
My informants slated that when a man died he was received Jn his 
ru^tji noiwcJji by the Wo*odi Mukkan, litetally the * big devil** T*his 
does not imply the belief in a deity, nor is there any belief in a supreme 
bdng, but my informants always spoke of the Wo’odi Mukkan as a 
kind of predding spirit in the world to which they go after death* 
There a man may be greeted by his mother, and as he comes she 
would tell him (in the case of Pomjogobi)^ not to strike water (the 
usual nomcaJji) but to strike the akanjuj his own nanjimo * 

^yinticMuma rites art not performed in connecdon with persona] 
totems. Pomjogobi belonged to Noriataltampany, a clan whose 
territory centred about Norbtal (Mosquito Point), from which it 
took its name. At this spot the woa'i (dugong) was situated* 
If the people noticed a frJling off in the number of dugong, a ceremony 
to increase dugong was perfomied at this stone by the old men who 
ciaimcid the dugong as jm/it. The stone was approached slowly, * Go easy, 
not rough," as Pomjogobi expressed it. The men then took leaves and 
struck the stone, spitting and hissing through their lips as they cried:— 

Ampimlo / AmpT / Afr^V A/r^/ 

You coolie p^kfuy f CoRif |]4cDly \ CofllE plenty I Ccudc plenty!“ 

* You sec dugong spout I' my mrormani cried."® 

“ In the territory of the clan Pom'yioon on the j^fiddb Pascoe 
River, there are a number of very important totem centres, including 
the Pai’yatn*, the Rainbow Serpent. He frequents a lagoon, the ivaicr 
of whidi is said to be ii)ni:o-ionk.o (black.) in colour and hot, and is 
believed to be the urine (kumjto) of Pai’yam’, My informant told 
me that he had seen the water shoot up from the place of Pai’yam’. 
Sometimes Pai'yam' leaves this lagoon and goes inside a great stone 
at a place called Apt. Pai'yarn’ is said to resemble a snake ; he lias 
marks of many colours on his body and a great crest on hU head. 
Members of his dan might swim in the bbek lagoon, but not others, 
and the natives told me of a man who had gone to that place, and 
whose mipi (ghost) was taken hy Pai'yam*. The victim became like 
a baby ; he ‘ cried like a child *, and returned from the place exhausted. 

* PcfhMial mme iMning ih< f>df 3 vhLs bency. * ftklal, 49^^ • Ihid^ 


Bui Yarrogobi, a medidne-inan who belonged to Pom*yinon, recovered 
his Fitipt for him." ^ 

" The most unusual of all the totems is wairnpilgo&if sexual licence, 
which is associated with the ' woman story stone' ai Tolnonoina, 
If they ‘ dash' the woman * story thing ’ left by Twai, they declare 
that the woman wiU ' go woImpUgohi My informants said that this 
story thii^ was once * Bashed * by a man who had been * pushed * 
(coerced) by another who wished to obtain an ' outside ^ woman, 
i,e, a woman from another place, for women were difficult for a 
yoimg man to obtain. He put on poria (red ochre), matan (white 
paint), and normpa (charcoal) and a special kem (medidne) used to 
attract women. The women all went wolmpilgohi and tan after the 
men. ' EverybcwJy fight/ my mrortnant added. Now they have 
stopped ' Bashing ’ diis stone. TJvis abstiact ' wolmptlgehi * which 
possesses the women as a consequence of the painting of the totem 
centre, is also a totem of the clan of Tolnonoma."^ 

“ The K/wfwkdgt of Physkid Patermty. 

“ I actually approached the present study with a Brtnly tooted 
belief that the natives were entirely ignorant of the fact of physiological 
fatjierhood. It was only after T was repeatedly made aware of the 
£u:ts stated here than T became convinced of the reality of the natives' 

“ Informants of the Koko Ya'o, Ompela, and Kanju tribes treated 
contemptuously any suggestion that the motlier has any part in con¬ 
ception, and declared tliat tcdVall, the seminal fluid of the male, 
produces the child. ' Mother nothing,' my informant, Tjaminjinyu, 
of the Ompela tribe, declared with hnaltty. 

■' In die Koko Ya'o, Kanju, Yankonyu, Ompela, and Yintjingga 
tribes, there is a firm belief in the contraceptive (not abortifacient) 
properties of certain p^ts. I was informed of this fact by both men 
and women in widely separated localities, and in each case the names 
of rw'o plants that are used, kdata and p'Ctda^ were given to me. I had 
striking evidence of this belief when collecting genealogies from a 
group of Kanju people on the Batavia River. After writing down 
the names of a man and his wife that occurred in one of the branches 
of tlie pedigree, 1 asked, as usual, for the names of ilielr children, and 

^ Ibid.k 

■ “ ig it Tcoit or lewd fersout a Wtimm ; one mven lO free 

bilm«iir»Cp a hador.... LcH Frequmtlv' lenn li Eipplied Id 

■ tbtd.p 


received the spontaneous * Not got, Kem yanh^t^n^ he ^hut 

mesel/ she has not got any, she has eaten medLcinc; she has shut 
herself- Tliose were the exact words volunteered by one of my 
infonnants—a woman with whom I had never discussed die qtuesuori. 
The men, 3$ usual, in all matters pertaining to women, such for 
example as chtldbuih, genemlly disclaim any hrst-hand knowledge 
of tills medidne, but they freely admit that a ' Jietd belong woman ' 
is used, and declare diat they would be angry if they found then 
women using it. Most of my tnfotmation on this subject was obtained 
from old women. They sated tliat this Jani was ‘ old-fashioned * 
and all agreed that when they used it * piccaninny no more come out’.” ^ 
The two plants mentioned above, t^ani or ka'ata {Dioscorea saliva 
var. roruai/a)and pFala {£niada scam/ens)^ ate both good mci'_y»,and are 
freely used as foods, the root of the former, and the bean of the 
latter, but in each case only after a tedious process of cooking and 
subsequent washing in frequent changes of water. When used as a 
contraceptive the ieni is generally eaten raw, sometimes roasted, but 
in each case without the prolonged wasliing to which the same material 
is subjected when used as food. A very large rjarri rootstock, called 
tjam kaimpaj a ‘ male ’ tjarra., is selected, and thiseidier raw or cooked, 
is given to the young woman by one of the older women credited 
with a special knowledge of such matters. I was informed tliai this 
is taken in the early morning on an empty stomach, after whidi 
the woman lies down, refraining from drinking tliroughout the day, 
until sundown. The old women declared tliat once a woman had 
taken this medicine she would never liave a child. One explanation 
of its action was that it' dried them up’, another that it closed the 
genital passages so dat tit iali*all could not enter, Tliese are, of i^urse, 
merely the speculations of my infornianis, for in such matters, which 
are not freely discussed, there is probably nothing that could be called 
an orthodox belief.” * 

“All the people of the Kawadjj, including the Ompela and Koko 
Ya’o recognize at once the footprints of every individual with whom 
they come into regular contact in the nonnal course of their lives. 
So closely allied is the footprint to the foot that made it, that the 
name ia*o is applied both to a foot and to a footprint or “ track ”, 
It is therefore impossible to tell, except by the context, whether a 
man is speaking of a foot or a footprint. Tlie footprint of a diild is 

■ thUL, 

* Ibii, 107, 



believed to reseinble that of its father. When the paternity of a 
child in the Ompela tribe was in doubt the natives said^ ' Look rcr'o, 
ta*o belong Tjaminjinyu I' ' Look at the foot—the footprint is that 
of Tjaniinjinyu I * Here then in a single phrase we have a clear state- 
tnent of native belief. They not only recognize paternity by this very 
seeking for the physiological father of the child, but they express 
a definite belief in a physical bond, and even a physical resemblance 
between die father and child. 

“ This idea of a physical tesemhlance between father and child 
is an interesting and important one, for it is very diSerent from the 
belief generally recorded by ethnographers in Australia. Sir James 
Frazer ^ says of die Central Australian: ' fatherhood to a Central 
Australian savage is a very dlfierent thing from fatherhood to a 
dvilized European. To the European father it means that he has 
begotten a child on a woman; to a Central Australian father it means 
that a child is the oflspring of a woman with whom he has the right 
to cohabit, whether be has actually had intercourse witli her or not. 
To the European mind dte de between a failier and his child is physical, 
to the Central Australian it is social.” 

*' But the phrase ‘ look ra'o ’ is incompatible tvith these primitive 
beliefs, since it shows the definite idea of a physical bond between 
parent and child. Moreover, the study of the sole of the foot and the 
footprint fits well with his own normal practice of studying tracks 
and Identifying them with individuals, and fctestalls the ceidetsm 
that he has learned it from a white man. There is also a social aspect 
to fatherhood, but the social bond between a man and his father 
appears to be less strong than tlie bond with his mukka or kola, hts 
mother’s elder and younger brothers, respectively, either of whom 
may frequently act as his guardian. 

“ Wife-lending, howe\'er, is not unknown, but the only fomi 
appears to be that between brothers (actual or classilicatory), in 
which an elder brother may be * sorry ’ for his younger brother and 
lend one of his wives to Idm, never in the reverse direction. This 
can be explained under the leviratc and merely anddpates what 
normally takes place on the death of the elder brother (yapu), when 
Wi^yaadu takes his wife or wives, and may adopt his children. Tliat 
is what had actually occurred in the case that I have already cited, 
in which the paternity of the child was in doubt. TTie mother of die 
child had been lent to Tjarainjinyu by a classificatory elder brother, 
^ J- C, Fro^r, and r, J, 33.7, 


and when the child was bom the father was decided by the examina' 
tton of its feet. Even then the husband of the woman accepted the 
child as one of his own children, for although he was not the physical 
&ther, he was the social father, just as Tjaroltijinyu would, in the 
event of his elder brother's death, have adopted the child of which 
he was the actual but not the social father. He would then have 
become the social father of his brotlicr's children, to wjiom he was 
already a classificaioTy father and who already addressed him as 
pipi (Biher, father's younger brother). 

"There is in this society nothing approaching the sexual licence 
that Professor Malinowski found to be the regular thing before 
marriage in the Trobriand Islands. In the Koko Ya*o tribe a girl 
has normally no sexual experience before marriage, for she is married 
actually before puberty, even before she is physiologically capable 
of bearing children. Prior to this she lives at her patents' fireside, 
and even during the day she is under the constant surveillance of 
her mother, whom she accompanies in her daily quest for food. The 
reason that the natives give for this child-marriage is that the girl 
will not be afraid of her husband if she grows up with him, 

" I found no evidence of any beliefs either in reincarnation or in the 
entry of a spirii into the mother ac conception. The existence of some 
such belief might have been expected, W'ben, in a patrilineal sodety, 
the child possesses at birth a namud or spirit that comes by augury 
from the mother’s moiety. 

“ In discussing the personal totemism of this tribe I suggested that 
the anomalDUs method by which the personal totem is obtained 
may be a heritage from a previous matrilin^ condition. The meanings 
of the names of the two totems appear to support this. It, nartjimo, 
the name of the personal totem, mother’s jfatAer^ which might be 
expected in a matrilineal society, and ilie name of tlie dan totem, 
pola, meaning father's father^ which is found in the existing patrilineal 

" Evidence is not lacking for the belief that there has been an 
extensive invasion, or invasions, of culture, and it seems probable 
that the natives of this area of Chpe York, were originally matriltneal 
and were invaded by a patrilineal people, possibly bringing with 
them a knowledge of physiological latherho^.” *■ 

In this extraordinarily interesting account it will have been noted 
that the myths relating to the early history of the tribes as exemplified 

^ Ibidrp 


by the Koko Ya’o mydi of the Culture Hero I’wai follow much the 
same plan aa those of every other Australian tribe we have so far 
considered, the tribal ancestors here being delinitety stated to have 
been mortals and not supernatural beings. And, of course, it will ha 
recalled that the belief that animals were once men is not altogether 
unique in Australian cosmology. 

Twai does not appear to have had any connection with the creation 
of the totems nor with the creation of the members of the tribe, but 
he is said to have created the initiatiOR ceremonies and many of the 
natural features of the land. Tlie initiation ceremonies of the Koko 
Ya’o, which for reasons of spa% have not been described here, quite 
clearly represent a lecapimlation of the activities of I'wat, the 
ceremonies being strictly non-totemic. 

The actual ancestors of the tribe arc the Yilamo or Wulmpano, who 
lived in the omaaoma^ “ in the beginning,” and it is these ancestors 
who gave rise to the totem oentrcs of the present day. From these 
totem centres the individual derives his dan totems, or po!<t, of which 
each individual has several and which are ” shared by all the members 
of his clan, and handed down from generation to generation in (he 
patrilineal line Increase ceremonies of the Arunta type are practised 
at the totem centres. By ” totem-centre ” it seems that we are to 
understand merely a totem-abode, and not a JCitaniJtilla. 

The personal to tern or nariji/no nomtadji possessed by any individual 
comes to him through the mother's moiety, and is determined by 
augury. Increase rites are not performed in connection with the 
personal totem. 

The beliefs with respect to the vital and ghost spirits possessed 
by each individual are, it will have been observed, very similar to 
the belief held in the same connection by the Queensland and Cape 
York tribes described by Roth. 

The totem of scKual licence, which may perhaps be understood also 
as tbe totem of excessive sexual desire, is certainly of interest here, 
such a totem we shall encounter at least once again on the opposite 
side of the continent, namely, among the Karirra of Western 

It is by no means clear what the totem centres are actually under¬ 
stood to be. The spirit parts of an individual, we have already seen, 
are derived itom other sources, and his totems are, in the case of his 
personal totem, indirectly determined by the mother's totem in many 

' See pp. 


cases, and in the case of the pitla^ bis clan totem, is associated with 
the tribal ancestors and the totem centres, but indirectly, since the 
pola are handed down from one generation to another, in die patrilineal 
line. This will mean that a particular individual may trace his totemic 
memhership to a Ytlamo ancestor, and tlius to an association with a 
partkubr totem centre; he does not, however, derive his totem from 
the totem centre directly, but only mdirectly from ids father or fatlier's 
brothers. Increase ceremonies associated with the totemic animals or 
plants, etc., may take place at the totem centres, but at no dclinite 
seasons, as among the Aiunta, for example. Tliomson*s account of 
the simple increase ceremonies performed in connection with the 
dugong totem renders it fairly clear that the kanni^ or power, within 
the totem-stones is manipukted by the totem members for the purpose 
of increasing die supply of their toiem animals. 

Now, wliaiever die power witliin the totem stone is, it must clearly 
he of a spiritual nature. Are there then spirit dugong either actually 
or potentialJy present in the dugong totem stones, which, following 
the performance of the proper rites, eme^ and subsequently appear 
in the desired shape and quantities ? Or does this power merely cause 
the existing dugong to increase of themselves alone ? 

Thomson has stated that he could find no evidence of such beliefs. 
And from the description of the totemic rites themselves we derive 
but little assistance in die attempt to return an answer to these questions, 
but from the description of the sexual licence totem, and of two totems, 
the description of whicli have been omitted here, from Thomson’s 
account, the heat and sickness totems, in which their essential essences 
emanate directly from the totem stones, it is likely that a similar 
conception either held or holds for the other totems too, that is to 
say that the totem animals are regarded as emanating directly from 
the totem stones themselves. Such a belief would not necessarily 
involve any associated belief such as incanuidon, all tliat is necessarv 
is that the totem animals should come directly into being from the 
totem centre, the transformation of the spirit form into the dugong 
form taking place after the spirits have emerged from tlie totem 

Thus, anj doctrine of reincarnation or even of incarnation is upon 
such a theory rendered quite unnecessary. 

It is not altogether surprising, therefore, to learn that die natives 
entertain some idea of pitysiological paternity, nor is it surprising to 
leam that the mother is " nothing ”, having nothing to do with 



conception, and that the child is held to be the product alone of the 
seminal fiuid of the male. In short, physiological matemicy ts 
unrccogniaed and physiological paternity is declared to be die only 
exisitng blood ” relationship between parent and child. 

Tlie belief that the mother plays no part whatsoever in tlic generation 
of the child is, of course, according to the general Australian panem, 
and the belief that the father is the sole genttor of the child, tiiat the 
child is die product of the Other's seminal duld, is a belief which is 
limited to some of die tribes of tliJs region of Australia alone. 

So singular a belief combined with the other singularities of otganiza> 
tion and culture of this tribe raises a strong suspicion that this and 
these other singularities are not indigenous to it, but have been 
introduced from some external source. 

This suspicion is convened into practical certainty when it is 
considered that the Koko Ya'o ate situated on tile eastern coast of 
the Cape York Peninsula, only tjo miles south of the Torres Straits, 
and thus within reach of the peoples living on the islands within the 
Straits, and by this means widiJn possible reach of Papua and the rest 
of Melanesia, Tliomson has slated that: “ There is strong evidence 
for the belief tliat the Cult of f'wai came into Australia through Torres 
Straits. It is non-totemic and is superimposed upon a totcmic culnire 
in which it belongs not to one clan or to one moiety, but to the tribe 
as a whole. The cult associated tvitli it is practised by all theclans of the 
tribe, and thus forms a basts for tribal, rather dian clan, solidarity," ‘ 

The cult, as Thomson points out, together with the ritual dances 
and masks associated with it, bears a striking resemblance to die Hero 
Cults of Papuan New Guinea, and it is highly probable tliat these 
found their way to die Koko Ya’o througli the Western Islands of 
Torres Straits," The cultural afHniHes existing between Papua, 
Torres Straits, and Cape York Peninsula have long been recognuted and 
it is known that the contact has been maintained by means of die dug- 
out canoe, which is in use all down the eastern littoral of the Peninsub 
and as far south as the Batavia River in the Gulf of Carpentaria,^ 

^ Ibid, j&f. 

\\ 1904^ “"Ip Vlp 1906^ 41 ^ vol J, 1^35, 17*-*, ’ 

A. C. Mrportt AmnvoLpigicAi Ttww 

I, jm, 171^1 R. Hamlyn^Hiirri*, “S«tm 

ebe Hiiloiy of its EtkDflRTipby - 

Sf ^J9n 5 a H. - Totcmic Hem-CuiDt m Cin york Fcommli 

Oa™, «, ifljS. «iwq,; W. Lloyd Wsmtr, '‘Malay 
tht AbongLo*! CMktim af Nonll-Eiitmi Amticm Larai,* ii, 19347tH9I* 



Tlie fact that the Koko Ya’o claim to be able to distitiguLh the 
members of eadi moiety by means of various anatomical characters 
might actually mean that in the remote past the tribe was composed 
of two racial v^edes, or, what is possibly more probable sriU, two 
distinct cuitutal groups each of whom presented some real or fanefed 
Of artibctal physiol difTerence, upon the basis of which the members 
of the two groups could be more or less easily dtsbnguished^ and that 
the present beliefs merely reflect the remains of past realities which 
have ceased to be so as a result of the complete mergence of the 
physical differences, and the complete incorporation of the cultural 
ones. This is a view whid) has recently been ^ven a new support 
by Haddon * and by McConneL^ 

It is, however, all things considered, piacdcally certain that the 
procreative belief of the Koko Ya'o have been considetably modified 
from their original state by some Influence proceeding from a source 
outside Australia, and most probably Papuan. The procreative 
beliefs of the Koko Ya*o being so very different both in character 
and in form from what we have come to know as the Australian 
pattern, it becomes highly probable that they must have originated 
elsewhere than among the Koko Ya*o and rpiite obviously cannot 
have suffered this peculiar change as the resuh of contact with some 
other Australian tribe or tribes, for there is no Australian tribe with 
whidi we are acquainted in any other region of tilts continent which 
possesses anything approaching the nature of the Koko Ya’o beliefs. 
The change, tlierefoie, must have been introduced, as we has'e said, 
bom some source outside Australia, and this source, there is abundant 
evidence to suggest, was most probably Papuan, 

In view of these considetations it bofomes impossible to consider 
tlie Koko Ya'o procreadve beliefs as Australian, and,betng thus foreign 
in origb, cannot be consideted in the body of our discussion to follow 
of the general j^tem of tlie procreadve beliefs of the Australians. 

It is, however, to a large extent quite possible to disdnguish the 
indigenous Australian elements both in the totemic organiaadon and 
in the procreadve beliefs, die analysis quite definitely poindng to 
the fact that prior to the Papuan contact the Koko Ya’o social 
orgamzadon and procreadve beliefs were cssendally of the North 
Queensland type described by Roth. 

Thomson's statement, that there is a firm belief in die oontiacepdve 
properties of certain plants, which, " given to the young woman 
’ Lm. dt» i, ilTt-a MeConiid, let dt, 4JI »(m. 


by one of the older women oedited with a special knowledge of such 
matters,” has, according to some, the efiect of drying up tlie woman, 
and, according to others, the effect of closing up the genital passages 
so that the semiiiai huid catmot enter, is of great inteiesu It would 
seem at first sight difiicult to reconcile such ideas with the belief that 
in procreation the ** mother nothing ”, for obviously the mother 
is an indispensahle condition of the procreative process according 
to these beliefs; without the mother it would be more reasonable 
to say " father nothing”, for his talTail (seminal fluid) cannot give 
rise to a child without the co-operation of a woman. But here a 
woman is considered as contributing notlung towards the formation 
of a child, the iather does all that is necessary, but it would seem 
imp<»sihle to disregard the fact that a woman is a necessary adjunct 
towards the completion of the process. Yet impossible as it would 
seem the fact is disregarded. Whilst pregnancy b not considered to 
be the fruit of the commerce of die sexes as we understand it, inter¬ 
course with a woman who has not been " closed " against the recep¬ 
tion of the fo/T all b nec^saty before the rnU'aU can give rise to a 
child. There is, tlierefore, present among the Koko Ya’o a knowledge 
of the relationship between intercourse, male ejaculation, and 
pregnancy, but the pregnancy being obviously produced by the male, 
the female is regarded as playing a purely passive and thoroughly 
unimportant part in the whole process. 

It would he interesting to know what the Koko Ya*o really think 
concerning the nature of the taltalL Do they consider it as something 
spiritual in nature or merely physical ? To these questions diete is 
nothing in Thomson’s account which would enable us to return an 
an.swer. Tali'all ts, of course, something that they can see. Is it, 
however, a miniature child already preformed ? Or is it an amotphous 
entity which undergoes development into a child during the period 
of pregnancy ? The interna] evidence would suggest that the latter 
hypothesis b the one generally accepted among the Koko Ya’o, for 
it b apparently to the body alone that the fd^aJ7 gives rise, and there 
is, as far as we are able to judge, nothing spiritual connected witli it. 

The native belief that the footprint of a child resembles that of its 
filter, of course, proves nothing, for such a belief may well be a quite 
conscious rationalhtation manufaciured to fit the apparently orthodox 
belief in the physiological paterruty of the child, and in order to give 
social paternity a presumed physical vaHdation. 

Finally, it seems perfectly dear that the Koko Ya’o belief in 


physiological patemiiy and in the taii'ali as the source of the child 
is 3S much in the nature of a superstition as is the spirit- 
child belief of the Arunm and other Australian tribes. The fact that 
the Koto Ya’o belief resembles our O'™ more closely than does that 
of the Arunta and these other tribes should not blind us to the fact 
that this is primarily an accident, and that the Koko Ya'o belief 
is obviously not based upon a reasoned solution of a difficult problem, 
but is a belief of precisely the same order as those relating to their 
totemic increase rites and their spirit beliefs in general. 

Tn a subsequent conununicadon Thomson states that 
“ The extension of field work on the Gulf of Carpentaria subse¬ 
quently has shown that the knowledge of physiological paternity is 
widespread in this region, 'fhe natives of tiie Wik-Monkan tribe of 
Arclier River, and also those of neighbouring tribes, distinguish 
between physiological and sociological aspects of paternity by use 
of spraal terms, which are employed in conjunction with those of 
the kinship system.” ^ 

Thomson goes on to say that 

“ The Wit-Monkan recognizes, and freely affirms, the fertilizing 
influence of seminal fluid (ntn^urra), but on the physiological aspect 
of conception and pregnancy his knowledge is less exact. He 
recognizes that pregnancy results from the introduction of seminal 
fluid, but as to how tlie embryo is produced his ideas are as 'vague 
as those of any white man who possesses no biologica] knowledge. 
His belief is that the seminal fiuid enters die uterus {po'Q mompa} 
and gradually builds up the body of the embryo, and thus he insists 
that 3 single sexual act is not suffidenr to produce conception, which 
can tesuil only from repeaud intercourse.” - 
In spite of die existence of tliis knowle^, as Thomson points 
out, a baby totem centre exists in one of the clan territories of the 
Vik-Monkan at which ceremonies for the increase of babies are 
carried out,® We have already had an account of the beliefs relating 
to this baby totem centre from the pen of Miss Ursula McConnel, 
but Thomson ^ves us the Wik-Monkan myth relating to die origin 
of this baby totem centre. Thb myth tells that in the beginning an 
ancestral " litde man ” or ** little ^ost ” lived at whai is now the 
site of the baby totem centre. “ . 4 .t first there were only diese two 

^ Di F. ThuRiKHi, in cht Wik-^c^akflli Tiiiie,** 7Tt« 

• ttid, J7T. 

* Ibi d. 


people^ die man and the woman ; no odiers. They went huntiiig 
togethei, and [hey copulated and copulated " until the woman was 
big with child. “ After this the man and woman made the baby totem 
centre,^ * 

A Wik-Monkan Moon mydi given by Thomson recounts that wlien 
the Moon was a man lie one day went fishing. After spearing many 
fish he rested and sank down under the water; some women seeing 
some of the dead fish went after them. The Moon seized two of the 
young ones and began to rape them, exclaiming, '‘Look at me; 
I am pouring out my semen for you all.” But the old men said, 
" This is Lad,” and ^1 the women and children came and looked at 
the semen and said, “ This is bad.” 

” At length Moon spoke, ‘ 1 shall eat it myself I' He picked up his 
own semen and swallowed it, and then cried, ‘ You shall all die 
ahogetlter. 1 shall lie down ; I shall die, but I sliall come up again. 
After that I shall rest, but each time I die I shall come back again.’ 
So after the old moon dies he rests awlille, but the new moon always 
appears again later,” ^ 

Thomson concludes;— 

" The statement of the fertilizing power of semen and of its action 
in ‘ building up ’ the body of the baby, and the revelation of the life- 
giving powers of seminal fiuid that forms live theme of the Moon 
mytli, are incompatible with ignorance of physical paternity. 

“ Furtliermore, the distinction in terminology in the kinship 
system betw-een the physiological and the social aspects of fittherhood 
is in itself significant enough to place fatherhood in die Wik-Monkan 
tribe in a category very different from tliat recorded elsewhere in 
Australia.” ^ 

The distinction in terminology to which Thomson refers is that 
die actual husband of the woman to whom the child is bom is, after 
the child lias been ceremonially presented to him, knowm as piacer 
or begetter of the child {pt§k wtaipon), * 

” The genetic kinship term for feiher is pip^ the reciprocal term, 
nenk, A child has only one pip mptpm although it may have many 

Tliai the Wik-Monkan possess a knowledge of the lelationsliip 
existing between intercourse, seminal fluid, and pr^ancy tbere 
can be no doubt whatever. They recognize that cessation of the 



* tbld., JI4, 

* Jh\eiL, 


men^ is indicative of pregnancy, they know ihar the genita! passage 
is closed after conception, and they “ bcUeve that there is a bag 
the name applied to the fceral membrani^s and also to the 
placenta, in which the senumal fluid is stored, and wtthin which it 
ass:umes gnidimUy the form of an egg ^ Thai theit knowledge 

of the relationship between intercourse and childbinh h not too 
vague, and dial their recognition of the actual father of a child is 
not detenrwned by purely social factors is further borne out by [he 
account which Thomson gives of a young man (at the Mapoon Mission 
On the Batavia River) who bitterly complaiii^ to him fhnt lie had 
been induced to many a girl, who had subsequently given birth to 
a child of whidi he was not the father^ ** He admitted tliat lie liad 
had sexual intercourse Vidth the girl before marriage, but he affirmed, 
that as tills had occurred only once, he was sure that die baby that had 
been born later could not have been his owm Notliing that 1 could 
say to him would shake his belief: married men, he declared, bad 
told him that conception followed only after repeated acts/^ ^ Thus, 
It IS cJearty recognized that a man, whether he is the husband of the 
woman or not, must have repeated sexual intercourse with a woman 
before conception can be produced. The necessity of repeated 
intercourse so that the body of the embiyo might be built up would 
appear to afford the plainest proof of the fact that iniercourse and 
the seminal fluid are considen^ to be the chief cause of conception 
and childbirth* 

Yet in spite of this and of the myths relating to the creation of 
the baby totem centres it is upon Thomson's accouni difficult to 
see what precisely the function of these baby totem centres may be^ 
In connection with the baby totmi centre Thomson writes t— 

The myth of Its origin is typical of those that explain the origin 
cf tlie totem centres of thesjc people. The fundamental fact revealed 
in the mydi is die discovery by the totemic ancestors (the man and 
woman who made the totem centre at Omyau^wa) of the fact tliat 
pregnancy resulted from sexual iniercourse, and the importance of 
this is indicated by the fact that at Panttau*wa the centre representing 
the female gemulia is regarded as the most important of die small 
centres (au wa that compose the whole totem centre* Tlie 

increase rite, the tlirusting of a yam stick or otlier implement Into 
the symbolic vagina, is believed to give rise to babies in no more 

* [bill., J77- 

• IbwLp 17 $. 


literal sense than the incicasc rites performed at any other totem 
centre give rise £r€cdy to animals. The belief U simply that a ritual 
state of well-being results^ something like mana. and causes them to 
multiply." * 

On an earlier page Thomson writes ;— 

** At the baby totem centre at Ark Omyau'wa increase rites (jsuwa 
ien/’n) were performed by men and also by women when they wished 
babies 10 go to other places. The centre itself is said to have sunk 
out of sighr under water, but the breaking off of the tops of tcrmtte 
mounds close to the totem centre today consritutes the increase rite. 
As this rite is performed, the names of places to which it is desired 
to send babies are mentioned. Sometimes the names of individuals 
may be called, especially, my informants added, in the case of a 
woman who is niantji^ ' too much mn about,' and who will not 
renuin with her own husband, in order to' make a big row come out 
i.c. in Order to bring down vengeance upon her head/* ® 

Certain inconsistencies in these passages are worth remarking. 
In the first place Thomson states that the Increase rite is believed to 
give rise to babies is no more hteml sense than the increase rites 
performed at any other totem centre pve rise iUreedy to animals, all 
it is believed that the increase rites achieve is a state of ritual well¬ 
being. In a second place Thomson states that as this rite is perfonned 
the names of places or individuals to whom " it Is desired to send 
babies ” rnentioned. Oearly the latter statement would suggest 
that spirit babies actually exist at the baby totem centres j the account 
which Miss McConncl gives of them and the practises associated 
witli them certainly lend some support to such a notion, and so, too, 
does Thomson s own account of the myth relating to the creation of 
these centres, for according to this myth when die baby totem ancestors 
had completed dieir task " they left their children" at what is now 
the totem centre.^ Further, it is believed that: 

Every living number of the Omyau*wa clan is represented by 
a tree that springs up in the totem centre. This tree starts to grow 
as soon as a woman becomes pregnant, and continues to grow 
throughout the life of an individt^,... 

"My informants cited an actual instance in which a tree associated 
with an Ornyau’wa man bad been cut during his lifetime. Tite tree 
withered and gradually died; when ti commenced to wither the man 


sickened| and as the tree dried up and slowly died^ so the maji declined 
and died too/^ ^ 

Such facts would jndicate that diere exists an associadori between 
the individual and his totem centre somewhat more profound than 
is suggested by Thomsoti's statement concerning the ritual state of 
welJ-being which causes the totem anima] to multiply. Indeed^ 
from Tliomson^s account it looks very much as if the indivJdiial is 
regarded as the incarmtion of a spirit child^ and tliat the knowledge 
of the reladonbhip between intercourse and childbirth is actually 
limited to the notion that the hody and not the spirit is ilie result of 
mtercourse* toOj may be the expbnadon of Wamer^s discovery 
tlisi along with the beliefs in spirit conception it is also believed that 
seminal fluid makes babies, that is the body of babies. Upon such 
a view^ the picture whicli Thomson draws becomes a comprehensible 
one, however diflicult otherwise* The evidence cited by "^Hiomson 
relating to the Wik-Monkan understanding of procreation is con¬ 
clusive on the corporeal aspect of tire subject, hut on die spiiimal side 
it Is quite inconclusive. 

It may be pointed out here that the role which the seminal fluid 
is believed to play in building up the body of the embryo reads 
suspiciously like the New Guinea notion of these thingSj and similarly 
tile belief that it is necessary tor the bither to he repeatedly witli the 
mother that the body may be built up during the pre-nataJ period is 
also a widespread New' Guinea belief, occurring also over a w*ide 
area of Melanesia.^ We have already discussed the mar ter of Papuan 
influences in this region of Australia in connection witJi die Koko 
\a*o, and there can be no doubt wliatsoever tliat slmibir influeitDes 
have been at work among the Wit-Monkan^ a facr which Tliomson 
himself is careful to point out in connection widi the culture as a 
whole.® No doubt the notions of the necessity of repeated intercourse 
for the building up of the body of liic foetus, the Ruiction of the 
seminal fluid, and possibly certain odier notions represent the Papuan 
contrihution to ihe spirit conception beliefs which are still to be 
found in dns part of AustraJia. 

The following recent account by Sharp of the procreative beliefs 
of another C^pe York tribe, the Yir-Yiront who live along the w'estem 

' IbidL^ 

• B. 7'^.£eiWZ^^£any)E,,l4Mid^ ^L M»d, 

PicW I4}ifi 'J.-l-ja ; G^, Tht Kiwtn P^mituts ^ 

Gmtw, Lcrfkc^ 1 ^ 17 , xyx 

* ThiMmon, tn& pt., 



coast of Cape York Peninsula in the vicinity of the mouth of the 
Coleman River, is also of interest because whilst on tlie whole 
following the general pattern of the procreative beliefs of other 
Australian tribes, tltere is some indication that some foreign induence 
has been at work here abo. 

“ For each dan there is one watery spirit centre situated on the 
dan domain tn a lagoon, creek, or bit of the sea. Here a parricular 
male or female ancestor of the clan resides, whose responsibility it 
is to send out all the ' spirit diildien ’’ which will be bom into the 
clan. These derive from an inexhaustible store, ate transformed into 
some active nanira] object such as a leech, snake, small fish, whirl¬ 
wind, turtle, etc,, which can enter the body of the mother after it 
has been seen or ‘ found ’ by the mother herself or by the real or 
classificatory father, who sends it on to the mother. There is no 
dreaming assodaied wirfi conception, which may or may not be one 
of the multiple totems of the child^s clan. Tile native states that 
children are sent out from tile spirit centres only when people copulate; 
but it is not the Intercourse, but rather die immigration of the * spirit 
child ’ which causes a pregnancy. * Spirit children * are sent out with¬ 
out consideration of the regularity or irregularity of the parents’ 
marriage. When a woman discovers her pregnancy, the dicitmstances 
of the ’ finding’ of the natural agent, which may Iiave been several 
months previous, are remembered by the mother or by a father. 
Since the responsible ancestor sends * spirit duldren ’ only of Ids own 
clan to die countries of his own clan in liis own tribe, die resultant 
ofiTspring is affiliated with the clan in whose country the natural agent 
was ' found With the aid of various obvious fictions, the * spirit 
child’ is usu^ly found in d ie cbn country of the cbild^s real futhcr/^ * 
The present member of the chn mlttor the past of the aitcestors 
in names^ personal characteristics^ and rehdonships. An individual 
has his * own' ancestor, a kind of alt^r ego^ whose name iic bears^ 
who is physically like him, whose wife is his wife^ and whose children 
are his cliddrem A man calk hk ancestral twin ' younger brother"; 
he also thinks of hunself as hts own ' younger brother *, apparently 
unaware of the philosophical sxihtletjcs involved* The modem 
individual is not a reincarnation of the ancestor^ they have no * soul 
stuff" in common^ nor has the "spirit child* from which a man 
develops any connection with the ancestral double^ The individuals 

I- Sbup, P i Ei ii sI U& and EoDHoedki ni die Ylr^ ViFoat of Cope Yo<^ Peninjub,^ iiVfiH, 
V, 23-4. 


i 62 


and the feladonships of ptesenc society thus tecreate exactly the past 
sodciy, just as the rites recreate ancestral activtiies.’' ^ 

In an earlier passage Sharp states that the mother “ is the dis¬ 
ciplinarian, the father avoiding the responsibility by pointing out 
that the child belongs to the motiier ‘ by blood' 

The organization of the tribe follows a simple patrilineal pattern, 
yet paternity seems to be lecognized as a purely social matter, wiulst 
maternity is reg^cd as a primarily physical condition. The father 
it would appear has nothing wltatsoevcr to do witli the physical 
being of the child. Children emanate from an inexhaustible supply 
which the clan ancestors regulate. When titey send out spirit-children 
these undergo incarnation in the proper women tlirough the agency 
of some natural object, but only after they have been found ” 
either by the mother herself or by the real or a cJasstfkaiory father, 
in die latter cases the spirit child is sent along to the woman by either 
of the men. Clearly then, the spirit child is regarded as an entity 
quite independent in ori^n both of man and woman. The teal fatiier 
of a child is the man who ** finds " the spirit child, whether he Is tlte 
actual husband of the woman to whom it is bom or not, but if Ite 
happens to be a classificatory &ther, he remains so, and the child is 
brought up in the family into wluch it is bom, that is, the immediate 
family of herself and her actual husband. The clan membership of 
the child’s real &ther will, however, determine that of the child. 
And as Sharp remarks, “The position of a given man's children is 
thus fixed as regards the kinship system, but [remains] variable as 
regards the clans." ® The mother of the child is obviously regarded 
as the host in which the spirit child undergoes development, a^ this 
is apparently construed as a physkal process which endows die 
relationship between mother and child with a value of a phpieal 
order, which cannot be the case in respect of the process of " Imding ” 
which determines paternity. A most highly original set of views, 
Tlie belief that spirit diildren are sent out from the spirit centres 
wlien people copulate is die belief I bad in mind when I suggested 
that there was some indication that some extentai influeitoe had prob¬ 
ably been at work here in determining the belted of the Yir-Yirom. 
Obviously, however, this “ influence ”, whatever tt may have been, 
can liave been but of sliglii duration and produced hut the slightest 
of effects, these effects, however, were sufficient to ^tabltsh a connec¬ 
tion between sexual intercourse and the sending out of tlie spirit 

» IhUL, II-J. ■ am, iv, I9H. +*4 * Loc. df,, V, ( 9 J 4 , 


children from the spirit centres. Tills is merely a suggestion^ and 
as an explanation there is no very oog^t reason for considering it 
as more probable than any other, for It is quite possible that the 
association -was arrived at by the Yir-Yiront independently of any 
outside influences. We have already seen that intercourse regarded 
as in some way a prelinimary to the entrance of a spirit child into 
a woman is to be found among the tribes of the interior of Australia. 
Among diese tribes^ as among the Yir-Yiront, intercourse is not 
regarded as a cause of conception, but as an indirect condition thereof. 
It is even quite possible that the Yir-Yiront belief is also held by the 
Central tribes, but there is no actual evidence of dm, ahhou^ it 
may ^^^ell be tliai die point has been overlooked. 

Since the Yir-Yiront have no knowledge of the actual relationship 
between intercourse and pregnancy, it seems highly probable that 
the belief that children are sent out from the spirit centres only when 
people copidate, represents the roudi modified form of a belief that 
was originaliy, in a much fuller form, introduced into the tribe by 
some extraneous people. 

Elsewhere ^ Sharp writes :— 

" I know of only one area in Australia to-day where it would be 
possible to get native ideas on procreation wholly uncontaminated 
by European concepts, and that area ^ has not been worked anthro¬ 
pologically and for a number of reasons probably won’t be until 
mission influence reaches it. Elsewhere the native, though they 
may never have seen a white man, know many of his beliefs, includ ing 
ttiose relating to the mechanics of reproduction. The tnisslons 
especially, confronted widi the problem of pregnant widows or 
unmarried girls who claim to have ‘ found ‘ widiout having had 
any recent contact with males, tn other words witliout having ‘ com¬ 
mitted sin have been at pains to explain the European point of view. 
Such a statement of fact by the ^-knowing white has naturally 
impressed the native,^ and is known even among the wilder bush 
tribes such as those I worked with my second season. This, of course, 

' Ld 4 ktrer to dsied idtli junct 

* Bcncindc aJC the bw of thi^ Gdf of 

• Tl may here be notad dial tbe Bishop of Notl^ Ftod^uan^ via qfwKJihcf 

opiniofia he iflfbnncd J. C- FniKr tomt rmity jicars diai by dl rile tribes wiih wtuda 
ht 11 BOfUfilmid boih in North QuecAiLmd -ubd bi Central A^btzaliaf tFudu^^ the Aiusb ; 
noc ody mi rihe rurivcfi in riudr savage rote fgincttim of rite mce cause of oocbec|»Jori, but they 
do not readily bclunc it even afeer d^r odmisifofk ioio misaien vadom, anl thi^ locnduliiy 
hu to be redwicd viih in the dSom of the imtoduoe a hi^^icr standard of xxial 

morality among d^m J. G. Frazer*" &clic4 and Cuuonu of ihc AusiralUn Aboriginra,** Mm, 

olio the nrae ultfaor’l TWeminei aW £jK^fctiny* S* 1910^ 


complicates tile problem of the lield worker iovesd^Hng the maiier, 
and means that bis conclusions regarding the original^ pre-European 
beliefs of the natives can be little more than a matter of bis own opinion. 

" While details vary from region to region, the basic general belief 
of the various groups with which 1 have dealt is that conception 
occurs when a spirit baby enters a woman's body (not necessarily 
through the va^na), and rnaterialtzes in the womb. Such a conception 
may be an entirely private experience on the part of die woman 
concerned. Nowhi»e was the male thought of as impregnating die 
female, as pbctng the spirit baby in the women through intercourse. 
There are no spirit babies in seminal fluid, any more than diere are 
in other body fluids. Young girk and old women, as w'ell as many 
of those of middle age, have tegular intercourse with men, but liavc 
no babies, as everyone knows. In die community I know best, of 
123 posi-pubeial females who have been regularly married more 
than a year, twenty-six have defltutely never given birth to a child 
and, so lar as could be discovered, never conceived. Women may 
thus have intercourse with men, but they do not conceive unless 
a spirit baby enten them. 

■' There is, however, a vague recognition of a very general relation¬ 
ship between intercourse and conception or the lading of a spirit 
baby. It is generally admitted that ‘d a woman never had any inter¬ 
course, she would not find a spirit child. Tlie people with whom 
I did most of my work believed that ancestral spirits sent out spirit 
children, and stated diat these were sent only to women wlio have 
had intercourse. But they would be perfeedy willing to believe it 
possible for a woman to conceive who had l^d no intetoourse for 
several years. They know, however, that in the normal course of 
events it would be only the very young, the ^'Cry old, or the diseased 
who would gp for any length of time without intercourse, and tliere 
would be other more obvious reasons than the lack of intercouise to 
explain why such women did not conceive. An association between 
sexual actlvltfes and concepdon is found in areas where linked, 
multiple totems ate in vogue, where subjects connected widt sex and 
vdth birth and young children arc normally linked together as totems 
of the same clan. Thus the Yir-Yiront Rain clan numbers among 
its totems the male and female genitals in their several parts and 
condidons, menstiuadon and menstrual blood, semen, urine, die 
anus, freces, the act of defecadon, the act of bearing a child, after¬ 
birth, umbilicus, breasts and milk, and young children in general. 



SucH a complex of assonatioiis may be based primarily on anatomical 
relationships. When it comes to a qucsiion of the cause of conception 
in aninials, wlio have no spirit babies, the native simply gives up; 
but in discussing tlie matter, he always points out that animals copulate 
and that this must have something to do with the arrival of the young. 
In my opinion, the original idea of the natives with whom I have 
come in contact is that intercourse piepaics a woman for conception, 
but does not in any specific instance cause itr 

“ I myself have never thought these conceptional beliefs so amazing, 
and after working with aboriginals for almost three years I still fail 
to see why tlte fact that they lack precise informatioii on the physiology 
of procreation sliould by some be considered as an indication that 
they must be moronic. Tlieir ideas of many other natural processes 
are just as va^e. For diem sex is a pleasant and exciting pastime 
which goes on practically all the time between all adult men and all 
adult women, married or not. While all women participate in sexual 
activity, quite distinct is the business of having babies, whiclt is 
peculiarly woman's own private mysterious affair, many aspects of 
which arc tabu to males ; and not all women have babies. 

" It is true that the spirit baby beliefs, in their various forms, have 
a definite sociological function in associating a child with a pater, 
actual or classificatory, tliat is with the mother’s husband, irrespccuve 
of tlie genitor. This is especially the case where a child is linked to 
a patiilinieal group through spirit baby beliefs. But whether, in this 
situation, tlie beliefs ate cause or effect 1 certainly would not attempt 
to answer. I see no reason for believing that the aboriginals ever 
knew more about procreation than they do to-day, just as I see no 
reason for astonishment that they know' as little as they do to-day/’ 

In a kter communication ' Sharp writes:— 

" I should think that the present general assodadon of intercourse 
and infants might as well be interpreted as a move towards belief in 
a causal connection as away from such a belief. Either imerpretarion 
seems perfectly possible, and both equally hypothetical. Spirit 
concepdon beliefs do have the definite social fimedon of linking a 
child with a particular totemic complex; but this and other aspects 
of aboriginal philosophy could be adtieved, I believe, without the 
necessary repression of a knowledge of procreation. At least, I see 
nothing In the narive philosophy wluch would demand such a 

^ Letter m th« uiihpr ltd i 9 jS. 


Miss Ursula McConnel has recently repotted an extremely 
interesting mocfn legend which was told her hy one of the last of the 
older men of the Koko-yalunyu or Koko-yilbur tribe on the Bloom¬ 
field River in North Queensland.^ The l^end tells how the moon, 
Gidja, was a man in the olden days^ and thene not being any women 
he transformed a boy to be a wife unto him^ and then, ** By and by 
Gidja looked round for something with which to make a 
(piccaninny). He took bark from the blood wood and nulkwood trees 
and crushed them, extracting the red and white juices. These he 
put inside Yalungur^ through the orifice which he iiad made and 
pushed them up as far as he could. ITie milk (Jjiwan) came up into 
Yalungur^s breasts and made diem swell like a woman'^s and die blood 
stayed where Gidja put it. Then Gidja picked die crimson 
flowers of the bottlebrush that grows in the river bed and 

the scarlet blossoms of the flame trees (ftagu^ and WimAani) that grow 
m the scrub. He put them into a string diUy-hag mixed 

diem together with some yams. He took also a long-shaped yam 
{Bami<nyaJ) and a round-shaped yam (kai£wa\ and all these be pushed 
inside Yalungur. Then Gidja worked away, worked away 
mixed and mixed, but no child (^kangoi) came yet. So Gidja tried 
anorhet kind of yam (mangt^Jji) and put that inside Yalungur to make 
the passage shppery^* and tried again. Then Gidja said, ‘ ThatV right 
now come now aU right! ^ And fay ^ sun-up ’ (midday) 

the Moon-s kangol was big inside Yalungur. Gidjastayed witli Yalungur 
all day, and by sun-down tbe Moon^s Jkmgal was * €lo.^e-up bom* 

Gidja made a iimgul in one day. No one else can make them like 
that* It takes other men many months to make a ksutgal. If Gidja 
liad not made a woman like that, men would have no wdves, no one 
to make etc., and no children. Gidja made a ’woman the first 

time, and now men have all these diings.” ® 

Commenting upon ibis legend, the significant part of whkli I have 
alone gi\nen here, Miss McConnel writes : 

Tlie introduction of the word into this account of the 

y U. McC^nty, "VA Mocn Legad ffnm lfa< BlVxMii&ld River, Notlii Qumaiirtcf,” 

* a jfouBg KakD-ywicji non {Emlcn^ Rim), Tvfaam Cfdja Iw 3 



liM pf ihc Void (penii) and iJie itccCpinaanyfng nplaiuliaa ihar * Cidja 

™ i^ty linns ' «v enJi ^ mniffi cf * 

A * to D^t it easy Itir ihc bdjQtt W 1» horn* ™ hcct" 

iWura, 1 fine Jlour (mm the feiiLt nf the ] 

• IIueL, 11^ 


Moon's creative activities shows that sex-contact is considered a 
necessary part of the process. This is particularly interesting in 
view of the fact that in most cases the Australian aborigine is believed 
to be ignorant of this fact. The Koko-yalunyu quite definitely consider 
5ex<ontact to be necessary to child-bearing. They frankly admit, 
however, that they do not understand pi whttt wjy it is necessary. 
Observation of plant and animal life is limited to processes that are 
visible to die naked eye, and T found nothing analogous to a tlieory 
of fertilization of the ovum.^ The nearest approach to this idea 
appeared to be that the materials put into the woman by Gtdja were 
created by sex-activity into the human form of the baby and that since 
Gidja used thb means in the beginning, it is necessary to follow his 
example, Gidja is a deEis tx machbia. who set the hall rolling and now 
things happen so, Hiis explanation is, however, too remote and 
impersonal for the facts of more indmate personal experience. An 
' accidental ’ element enters into individual cases which cannot be 
explained in terms of Gidja's established order. Men and women 
marry but they cannot bear children at wiU, Yatungur is requisitioned 
as a Unk with Gidja’s creadon, Slie sends the babies to their modiets 
and so is die mysdc cause in individual cases. Thus women experience 
those mysterious visitadons of the mulgai^fruil^ol (unborn babies)— 
butterflies, su^estively iioveting as if sediing someone; an un¬ 
expectedly-filled dilly-bag when the mind is preoccupied; tlie sudden 
appearance and disappearance of a snake, and a quarrel in the camp. 
Tliese experiences, followed by an awareness of pregnancy, are 
remembered and interpreted as the cause of pregnancy, being attributed 
to the presence of a tmdgal-mulgid that was seeking and has now 
found a mother. Such stories arc easily credited and gain currency 
when oUier explanations are lacking, and the snake, the butterfly, 
and the quickly-filled dilly-bag, the quarrel, and the husbandV beating 
are regarded as omens." ^ 

Miss McConnel tells us that *' the Koko-yalunyu quire definitely 
consider sex-contact to be neexjssary to child-bearing ", but, she adds 
that the moon-legend explanation is " too remote and impersonal for 
the facts of more intimate personal experience ”, These Jacw are the 
elements which Miss McConnd terms “ accidental ”, such as the 
association of pregnancy with the visitation of die unborn-babies, 
the mulgal-mulgal^ in the form of snakes, butterflies, etc. It is Yalungur 

^ They ttuT had beard ttui ' \ hlj;t idtilit ihxiwin^ ialcTTst La the white 

trtnji'i ide^ ibiry ciU4n«ined a tentfuiivc: aniude taw^nU dicin (Mc)h 

* Ibid-i 2£^u 


from whom diese unborn babies emanate, and it is she who sends 
them to the women. Thus, we have here the typical form of the 
Australian beliefs relating to proofcation. Children are conceived 
as the result of an act of intezeouese, but as die result of the will of an 
ancestor, “ the mystic cause,” from whom they originate and who 
causes them to undergo incarnation in the women. Sex contact is 
a condition of pregnancy, but not the cause of it. Gidja did thus in 
the beginning, and therefore one does similarly now, but it is rpiite 
clear that the nadves do not understand what the connection is between 
3ii act of intercourse and pregnancy, they do not know in wAut i«ry ” 
intercourse is necessary. Intercourse has something to do with 
pregnancy, no doubt, but exactly what remains obscure, and would 
not, it would seem, be of much concern to the native. Apparent^ 
intercourse is regarded as a condidon wiiicb makes the entry of an uii- 
bom baby into a woman possible, but dearly die imbom baby comes 
neither &om the man nor the woman, but from the ancestral Yalungur. 

Whatever their theories may be, the important point of course 
here is that these nadves do not regard intercoutse as die cause of 
conception hut only as a condition thereof. And such a belief, in 
varying degrees, we have alrrady encountered among other Ausrralian 

There is nothing, therefore, that is at alt aberrant or extraordinary 
in the procreative beliefs of the Kofco-yalunyu. 

Chapter VI 


" T7)e Great l^ootaitem lias told me, that Ammalcula are dispeised about 
m QjiporistBe Pfacef, to be the Seed of all Generations; Sc tlm greater VirgS 
has told roe, that certain Mares of bis Acf|tiainiance were inipiegnaied by a West 
Wind, which therefore I conduded io be one of those opfOttwa Plaeef, & 
considered it as the proper Veljide of these floating Einbiyos."—SiH Joim 
Hux, Imcm jine CoitcuMtu. A Letter Humbly Address'd to the Ro}'a1 Society ; 
In Wliich Is proved by the inost biconiestiblc evioekce, dtawn from Reason 
and Pracike, that a woman may conceive and be brought to Bed without 
any Commerce with man. London, i 7 |o, tj* 

Concerning the beliefs of tlie Niol-Niol H, KlaRCScb recorded the 
following observations:— 

"It was very dtiGailt to get absolutely accurate information from the 
Niol-Niol regarding their belief in the reincarnation of die souL 
But> clearly enought diey accept the existence of the soul before birth. 
Tlic name given to the soul in this stage is ‘ Rai\ Tlic Rat are 
supposed to be sitting in trees, like birds, and to enter the body of a 
wojiian independently of sexual intercourse. They also accept the 
existence of the soul after death, as spirits called ' NJer * which may 
be useful to the living relations, but may also sometimes tease them. 
I never could find out if the Njcr are tninsformed into ifoi.*' i 
According to J. R. B. Love the Worrora " believe that the man 
conceives the spirit of a child in a dream at Woongguni ® and is 
from the original mytholc^cal being who is supposed to abide at 
the place where he went to earth, Tlie man puts the diild in the 
wroman, and when the child is bom it is named by the &thcr widi 
the name of the Woonggtmi where he conceived it." ® 

Writing of the natives of die West Kimberley district of Western 
Australia, Mrs, D, M. Bates states that Tlie Broome district natives 

H. hiutsch, Same Mold on Soreulk immm tlie Bliek PopulitriDn of Trepical 

Au^ja m IW IJOf, Itih Mesing of dw Aiumllai AnocUtlofl for th< 

in d^jahren 1^04-1907^ EtkmiiBgai Jhg^ 19^ 1907^ 

- * J' Vr Wftorora mnd thdrMythdlogi^ lialiapiXtBiion.” 




believe ihar every baby must be dreamed by its Either before it comes 
into the TVorJd, and tliis ‘ dream baby ’ is called tigargal^. If the 
ngargshda does not appear to its future Either, and Ills wife gives 
birth to a child, the fatlier does not believe that the child belongs to 
him.... Again^ should a man have been separated from his woman for 
sonic considerable time, and while he is away from her a ngsrgatfda 
comes to him in his dreams, and should the woman have a baby in 
the meantime the man believes the baby to be His ngargaltt^t 
baby, no matter what length of time may have elapsed during which 
he has been apan from his woman. Procreation does not appear to 
iiave anything to do with the birth of the child. A man sleeps, and 
while he sleeps he dreams, and in his dream a ngargaltih comes to 
him, the ground on which he sees it being gienerally some known 
part of his Other's territory. He sees on die ground near die ngargalula 
some vegetable or animal, or, if he is a sea-coast native, it nMy be 
part of die toast within his territory, and a turtle or some fUh may 
be seen near the ngargalith, Whatever animal, bird, hsh is seen 
on the rtgargo/tila Imroo spirit baby's* ground) becomes the individual 
jal'ttga or totem of the baby. The little ngargabda follows its future 
father to histamp, and, according to him, b merely ‘ carried' henceforth 
by his woman through her mouth or navel It brings its own totem with 
it, but later it irJierits its fadicr's totems. Its special haoroo is called its 
ngargalula hootao^ and some function connected with the initiation 
of the boy wtU take place on ilic agatguJala hootoo. Let us suppose 
that the long edible bean is the btiy's ngargahJa totem. Wlten he 
has passed some stages of his inidadon, he begins to dream the increase 
of liis totem. He dreams hb ngargalula iooroOf and he picks up a 
branch of the bean and, chewing ir, spits all the clicwcd portions all 
about him. When the ripening season for the bean comes around a 
very plcnuful supply will ensue from the dream increase 

A very similar account of the beliefs of the native tribes in the 
same net^ibourhood has recendy been given by Professor A. P. 
Elkin, whose reports we may now proceed with. 

Writing of the beliefs of the Kaiadieri tribe of the Kimberley 
Division of Nonh-Western Australia, Professor EMn states that 
" according to the theory of conception held by the Raradjcri and 
every other Kimberley tribe, the father ‘ finds’ or sees in a dream, 
or may be in a waking vision, the child that hb wife is to bear. The 

D, " Socttl OF^mzJaion of some Western Austxalizn Tnbo, KtpQrt of rh* 14^ 

Ai;otnlun AsEocLuion for of ScffTUftp 


cotintry in which he has iJie dieam becomes the nura ^ of the child^ 
while 3 dteam associates the child with its totem, its Bugari, 

" .., Karadjeri toteniism is a variety of local toteraism in that 
the various Bugars are dehnitely associated with particular horde 
countries or localities, and ... the dreaming on the part of tlie father 
associates the totem of his child, while still a spirit diild, with die 
country in whidi he * found ’ it, which normally should be, or is 
arranged to be, some part of his own horde country. But whiJe 
fundamenially the totemism is * local the descent t$ dmost always 
patrilineal.’' - 

The following account of the procr^tive bdiels of the tribes of 
Dampier Land is also from the pen of A. P. Elkin. The tribes specifically 
referred to are the Djukan in the neighbourhood of Broome, the 
Ngormbal in the vidniiy of Barred Creek, the Djabera-Djaber of 
Carnot Bay, the NytU-Nyul (Niol-Niol) from Beagle Bay to near 
Pender Bay on the west and across the Peninsula to King Sound, 
the Bardi in the northern comer of the Peninsula above the Nyul-Nyul, 
and the Djaui on the inliabttable islands at the mouth of King Sound, 

" The local organaation is associated with the bdief tn pre-existence 
of spirits. Spirit children, mgctrlala, sometimes referred to as rui, 
invisible, live in definite centres such as waterholes, springs, trees, 
and rocks on the land and in the sea. The raedicine-men are said to 
know, through dreams, tiic whereabouts of these places which ate, 
of course, rah The entry of a spirit child into its mother’s womb is 
always associated witli a dreani in which the father sees or ' finds ’ it. 
Further, according to Nyul-Nyul informants, tile spirit child tells 
the father what its name is to be. It also tells die man that he is to be 
its fatlicr, and asks him where his wife is. Having given the informa¬ 
tion ro the spirit child, he may then take it in his hand and put it 
down near his wife, or on her navel. It will enter her womb, though 
not necessarily at once. Ar the time of the quickening, the woman 
tells her husband tha t a child has enieted her womb. He then remembers 
‘ finding ’ the child in the dream. 

" The tribes of Dampier Land also believe in reincaniation. Some 
babies, at least, are believed to be the d»d reincarnated. Such a 
spirit child comes to the &ther in a dream, just as the nagarlala do, 
explaining that it wants to be bom a^ain, this time as his child, and 

^ jVwfti, i term msd w dfsciibe both ihfi ppiHt home isd ihe hondc couBiry of i difld* or 
any otbef irkdividuiil. 

■ A, ETfcin* North-AimnibaCnK EGmheiky Di^^ision) “ Omrua, 




giving the name it previously bore. The father than waslies the 
spirit child and leaves it in £(&h water for three days, after which 
!te puts tt near, or sends it to, his wife. It enters her just as a nagarhla 
w'ould do. The washing is reserved for spirits which are being lein'' 
camated. During the period between incarnations, tite spirit so[oitms 
at one of the spirit-centres. Some spirits, however, are not reincarnated; 
they are said to go to Loman, from whence tliere is no return.^ 

TTie relationship of the spirit child 10 the totem may be seen in 
the following examples; The Bardj informants said that a man sees 
a little boy or ^rl, the spirit child, about 10 indies high, on the ground, 
in a tree, or 6n a stone. Coming up to him it tells him tliat it wants the 
dreamer to be his lather, and asks for the whereabouts of the dreamer's 
wife. Later on, the man dreams that the child is drinking at his wife's 
breasts. If the mother does not like or want the child, the latter, who 
realizes the fact, drops a little spear about 4 inches tong, which the 
father, still dreaming, picks up and throws into some wood or a tree 
from whidi the spirit child cannot withdraw it. The child then stops 
with the spear. But some rime after this, when the man and his wife 
are walking about seeking food, the former may throw hts spear at 
a turtle, fidi, kangaroo or some odier game but when he pulls die 
spear out of what he believes to be a turtle or some otlier creature 
he sees the spirit child, who then passes betw'cen his legs and entets 
the wife, who is followdng not &r behind her husband. .According 
to my infomiants, the spirit child has grasped the turtle, etc,, wiiich, 
however, really was not an animal at all, but a spirit child. This is 
somewhat conuadictory; the general impression 1 received in the 
Kimberlies was tlmt in such cases die spirit child took the form of the 
particular animal being speared, 

“ Nangor, a Bardi man, dreamt of liis eldest son, and later, when 
hunting, speared what he believed to be a large white fish, hermm^ 
but which he discovered was a spirit boy. He told his wife liis 
experience. She was at the rime preparing rtalgOj a native fruit, for 
eating. That night they both dreamt of the child, and Nangor told 
him that he did not want him. Later, however, while out collecting 
honey, Nangor saw a turkey which proved to be this spirit child 
again, who passed between his legs and entered into lus wife. When 
this son grows up he will eat neither turkey nor hetitum j thej' are 
his fff/, that is, they were associated with his invisible or rai tbrm, 

^ A+ P+ £3>[in, " T utguiu tfc in North-Wsfffii A$AEr4li» (The DiviiioB^/' piul 



and fiirdier, they are forbidden, anotiier meaning of the term rai ; 
in other words, they are as good as invisible to him. 

" Nangor himself was conceived as follows; His father was fishing 
one early morning and picked up a green turtle, at which moment 
Nangor, then a spirit child, nagarlaht caught him by the wrist and 
followed Iitm out of the water. After his father had dreamt of him 
several times he threw a spear under his father's leg while his father 
was asleep, and then entered his mother's womb. 

" Anotber Bardi informant calls the spirit child seen by a man 
after spearing game, rond^a. It foUows the man home and enters his 
wife. A person w^ neither kill nor eat the species thus associated 
with his ranJ^a, for it is all one body and one blood with him. If he 
did eat it he would be ill. This informant and bis father have one 
kind of fish as totem, while his mother and her &ther Iiave another. 
His mother's brother, liowever, has a different totem from his mother's, 
namely, a muliet Tlie reason for this is that his mother’s father was 
visiting another where he speared a mullet and the male spirit 
child appeared. . . . 

“ The last instance shows not only that tlie totem is local, but also 
that a person’s totem depends on the place where his pre-ciistent 
spirit was ' fotind ’ or seen by his father, and that this is closely 
associated with the modier's experience of conception, for this usually 
happens in the Sor of * finding I did not get a similar case from my 
Nyul-Nyul and Djabera-Djaber informants, and apparently T did not 
discuss the possibility with them. They were, Itowever, emphatic 
that the child’s totem depends on the father—tliat the descent of the 
totem is patrilineal. But this seems to depend upon the patrilineal 
descent of the horde, or rather of the horde country, for these infor¬ 
mants definitely associated the totem with the * country ’ of birth, 
and implied that this was rite father’s country. In any case, the motlier 
has nothing to do with the descent of the totem. In one case a woman's 
two children have different totems, neither of which is Iicrs; the reason 
is that they were sons by diflcient husbands, and were bom tn different 
‘ countries ’, each inheriting the totem of the Sor of his fither, which 
was the ior in which he was bom. As we have already noticed, tlie 
Nyul-Nyul belief regarding conception is that a father ' finds ’ in 
a dream the spirit child which is to be incarnated throng his wife, 
and learns its name from it. This is probably the peisonal name, 

1 Bor, « ritfinf w nibdiviiioii di« triM bHritoryi OMotvfaidi U occi^kd by a pan* 
lined ihe tHctiiben «if vlilch c(!joy ibe IttituiRB rijjibtK oT tbdf ciwq Jw', wd may n« 

innp^ updin the ^ of othen; 


though It could be the totenuc name, but at the rime that 1 was 
mfonned of the fact 1 was unable to find any trace of toiemism I'n 
the tribe. At the same rime, ! learned ano^er Nyut-Nyul belief, 
namely, that a tribal hrotlier might give food to a man's wife, and 
that 3 spirit child might follow this into the woman. In such a case 
the latter’s husband will have a dream in whicli the spirit child tells 
him that he is not his real father, but that he will have to act as his 
father, for he, the spirit child, must, through the action of the dreamer’s 
tribal brother, be incarnated through the dreamer’s wife. Here again 
1 was at the time tip against a blank wall as far as totemism was 
concerned, but if toremism did eatist among the Nyul-Nyul this 
would apparently mean that tills child would have the totem of the 
tribal brother, tliat is, of the * country ’ where the woman in ^cstion 
experienced conception. If, however, lOTemism did not exist there, 
it would, if actpiired, fit naturally into the pattern of these spirit- 
children and conception beliefs. 

" I have already mentioned the belief in reincarnation. Nangor’s 
second son came not from a rof, but from a deceased person, that is, 
he was a reincamarion. Nangor was returning from an * inquest ’ 
held at the burial place of a man who was his tribal * son On his 
way home, the spirit of the deceased pulled his belt from behind. 
He alone saw the spirit, and he did not tcU anyone of the incident. 
Ttie spirit followed him and appeared in several dreams. He watcJicd 
it and it ^finally entered the wife, who had accompanied Iiim to the 
inquest . Agam, unfortunately, I do not know definitely the 
association of this incident with totemism. But the disrincrion was 
obviously drawn between a child bom from a raij or totem, and one 
leincamaied. We would expect the person rdneamated to have the 
totem which he possessed in his previous existence, hut the inference 
from Nangof’s information is tl^t a person has a totem only if bis 
conception were associated with a natural species. It may be that 
Nangor and the Bardi in general had not yet elahoratcd a complete 
toteiuic philosophy. .. 


According to Spencer and Gillen the Aranda associate this 
belief with reincamarion. Klaatsch, however, says that the Nyul- 
Nyul do not believe in reincarnation, but 1 , without knowing Klaatsch's 
conclusion, found that the belief was held fay this tribe and also the 

' 44^-r. 



Bsrdi, as already scited. Further, one Bardi informani gave me some 
particuLir; regarding a spirit-double belief, but he did not associate 
it with the ijutuns. It Is connected with the placenta, and like the 
creature assoebted wjtli the * lindii^ * of the pie-existcni spirit child, 
nagafitda, is called fat. The placenta is interred at a person's birth, 
but tile rai assoebted with it grows up just as the child does, keeping 
pace with the growth of the latter. It Is always the age of the individual, 
gets sick when he does, and dies when he dies. It usually remains in 
the individual's own local country, for, even when he b away. It 
may visit him in a dream and tell him if there is anything wrong 
happening in his ' country for the rat can travel about, while the 
incarnated person is tied to one pbee, i?ai are otherwise invisible 
except to medicine-men. They live in the sand—probably all tlie 
horde countries of the Bardi have beach frontages—and their sole 
food is their own arm-blood, which, of course, is like themselves, 
rat, invisible and seem. This feet is known, for they are seen in dreams 
using their arm-blood for this purpose. Superhuman powers are 
attributed to tlicm. Thus, if a hmdji^hhtdjf a piece of pointed pearl 
shell, is found b a tree that has apparently been struck by lightning, 
it is believed that a ret, a spirit-doible, really killed the tree with one 
of the shells winch it keeps in its ' bside I suppose it would take 
a medicine-man to detect this piece of shell, for medicine-men also 
keep hbii^i-hmdj in their * inside *. Indeed, it is the rai of various 
kinds which gives a medicine-man liis powers ; thus Nangor said 
that liis son would be a medictne-man, for he had three rai, namely, 
a turkey, a fish, and his spirit-double. This suggests individuai 
totembm. Further, the mse of the one term, rai, for the spirit-double 
and the totem asscicbied with the findmg of the spirit child, suggests 
iliat there might be some relationship between the two.” ^ 

The Ungarinyin tribe of the fbnn River region believe tliat 
*' A father always ‘ finds' his cliild in a dream in association with 
water, either in a water-hole or in the falling rein. Even if, in the firet 
instance, as sometimes happens, he ‘ finds ' his child in water in waking 
life, he will see it in a dream later on when he b asleep in his camp. 
In lib dream he sees the spirit child standing at his head, and catches 
ir in his band, after which it enters his wife. If he be away from his 
camp at die time of this dream experience, he ties the spirit child in 
his Iiair, and so brings it home 10 his wife, Thb takes place at the 
lime of the rpjJckening. The ‘ hnding *, however, is not haphazard, 

‘ aid, 


Ii is always connected with definite spirit-centres whidi ate ; 

thus, spirit children belong ro the mythical age. This is what natives 
mean when, for want of better conunand of English^ diey say that tlie 
pre-existent spirits arc m<iJs by mgud^ when pressed for further 
exphjiadon, they can only deny thai tliis acdon occurs up above, 
' on top,^ on the sky, in spiie of the ftict tliat the rain conies down 
from above, and that die rainbow-seqjent, also called as well 

as is said to bring dte spirit diildren. They feel tliat having 

stated that die matter is ungudy nodiing more need be said. 

" NoWj wcn^<ad is also a lemi for a large quiet edible snake or 
python^ which, however, is also mythical, that is wtguJ, and as sudi 
b said to be die iian^ mate, of Tlie latter is the main subject 

represented on die cave picture galleries of die Ungarinpn and Wurara 
tribes, one of which b situated in each whether 

represented by a head only, or with part or all of the body as well, 
is always depicted with a nose and eyes, and a special head-dress, but 
without a mouth. Primarily, he represents die soimce of rain, and if 
hb painting is retoudied, rain will fell, though tbb should not be 
done until die commencerneni of the nonnal wet reason. It does 
not seem to matter in what tamiun gallery the wond^ina painting be 
thus retouched ; rain will come. But one the one in die 

gallery of the Kalarungeri horde which lias for its totem koHnij rain, 
b of special Importance in this regiard- The hjeadman is able to usher 
in the wet season by merely dreaming that he has visited this rock- 
gallery or itmd^a. 

JVond{iw^ however, h not only causally connected with the 
rain, but also w^idi the increase of naturat species, and also of the 
human race. The belief is that if a species, the inersse of which is 
desired, be depicted on a gallery, the increase is assured. 

But this b not done haphazardly. ITie specie painted on the gallery 
ot any are the totems of the horde, and, of course, the painting 

and retouching is done by fully initiated memhers of the horde, for 
the galleries are secret* Thus, the life and increase of any particular 
lotemic species is causaUy associated with a The latter 

may be a generalized Ufe-^ving power which b symbolized by the 
special paintings in each cave-galleiy. On the other hand, 

the wond^^i/ui at the gallery of each raminn may be a different culture- 

^ t/npid, the dto iTiythDlookal pa*t^ the eqidvnl^ flif the Akficrm of the Anmta. 

*■ JafliScirt, ^ indlvktual^* COUialiyf usmlly ihn of Mi father. Foe m -ywi iin^ of 

tii^se pJhfritt and! m. dismsitoit* of the see A. P* “ Kodk- FsillliRg)l of 

Austnilii," h 



hero of die ungud^ to be compared viith ihe various mura-mara 
heroes of the ni3fdiicil age of the Dieri tribe, or the sigira heroes of 
the Aranda alghmna. The uadves Speak of the wond^bta of thh centre, 
and the wond^ina of that centre, and so on, and even compare diem 
with one another with regard to their responses to man^s requests. 
Tliis point has yet to be definitely setded, but according to Mr. Love*s 
interpretation of Wurara mythology^ the ‘ Wonjurta * were die 
first men who wandered over the eanh^ making many of the natural 
features and going into the earth in spots, where dieir pictures remained 
and tlieir spirits abide for ever.^ The interpretation of the various 
wond^ina as distinct individuals^ and not os s}TnboIs of a generalized 
power, is supported by the fact rhat at ditee cave-gilleries known lo 
me, there are rounded stones which are said to be the tesucles of 
w^nJ^incij surely of an individual hero in each case* Further, die 
WQnd{iiui paintings at one cave are interpreted as female ; if this be 
correct, they musi refer lo a cuimre-heraine whose spirit resides at 
this site. Incidentally, Mr. Love once heard the grammatical feminine 
form of ' Wonjiina \ namely ^ Wonjuninya \ b^g used by Wiirara 
folk. On asking them what lE meant^ he received the reply * Woong- 
guja which he uanslaies as rock^python, hut which he also sa]/3 is 
the feminine form of * Woongguni an ancestral spirit-pkee, and 
* Woongguri \ an ancestral male being. . . ^ 

“ The female wt^ndjina gallery which I visi ted was gaid to be definitely 
associated with the increase of the human race. To touch up the 
pointing results in the going fonh of spirit cldldren ro be ' found' 
by fathers and incarnated ihrougli the wives. In this cose the 
‘ mechanism' for the increase of mankind is the sante as for the 
increase of natural species. Other wondilm^ whether classed as 
feminine or not, are also regarded as sources or guardians of spirit 
diildren- A pardcular w&ftdiina may be asked in a dream for a 
spirit child, or a w^d^ina might offer one iq a man as he is dreamir^* 
Moreover, some wond^ina are said to be more liberal in this regard 
than others. Thus, the pre^jastent human spirits are indmatdy 
rebred to the wmd^a represented on the rock-galleries of the various 
horde countries, hut only a full knowledge of the tribal mytliology 
will determine the nature of this relationship, whether, for example, 
wond^bui brought the spirit children to the locafity in tile aiigud^ 

* J+ JL B. Lcrvc^ '* Bock PiAiniir^ of die Worrori and diar M^nl^Jogical Intcrpnrtaiioii,^ ^ 
vf cA# S&cifgr ^ kvi| lo^. } On the rodk poilnliE^i 

of die AuatnUans, see D. DmridBOffii AkyrigLml TavnamM and 

PhUnddphtii, if}6. 


or Tirhethcr itiey are emanations from him* and so on* However ilils 
be, each person has his vngud place or spirit-home, winch is ' along 
waterand though this particular site may be some distance from 
the wondjiaa gallery, yet there is a c^sal relationship between the 
two; the pre-exisient spirits are in the former because of their associa¬ 
tion with the voigud 

An individual, therefore, belongs to his tamhu/if and possesses 
its totems, because his pre^eaisiem spirit was associated with the 
wendima of that tam&un. Generally, his imgud place, or spirit-home, 
the water where Ids father ' found ’ turn, is situated in his father's 
horde country, bur it might be in another; in the btier case, a person 
does not seem to have any claim over this tanj^m^ or over die ungttd 
centre where he was ‘ found \ If this be correct, his connection with 
die ungud dme, also called laian^ is through the cavc-galleiy of his 
own horde, with its wondibta and totems which ate represent^ on it, 
and through the various tutgud sites of his indudit^ his own 

spirit-home and die ' homes * of the spiri ts of die totems of bis horde. 
In the Forrest Hiver district, however... a person does have die 
right of lesidenoe in the horde country in which his spirit was * found 
whether it be the country of his father or not. Tlie solidarity of the 
patrilineal horde is apparently stronger in die Ungarinyin tribe than 
here,” ^ 

Tht Forrest lUver Trdies, 

Among the Forrest River tribes examined by Elkin, namely die 
Yddp, Arnga, Andedja, Wembria, and Wimgir, ” The horde 
country or gra is patrilineal; a person lias the right of residing or 
hunting in his father's horde country and brining his wfe lo live 
(here, even if his spirit-centre be outside its hound^es. In the latter 
case a person has die ri^t of residence in two horde countries, his 
faiher’s, and also die one in which his father ‘ found ' his piE-existent 
spirit. The term gra is used both to denote die horde country and 

■ Mffr L*ve seexiw eo tiunk ttul id ttic Wujtin trilift, the ’ urooii^gggum ' or eeu^sIt^ epLric- 

m iudew^t of the • He nye thM ' daild has m Wwnggimi, that 

™Bht Be calkd Ble Bdrthpba nEmSp Or EtuiceptJOll'plM fUtnE. Thiis jr wiit in icen that 
OTc ^ htmian %tiKl ot the ar^ not di^ prtMjcxiilOci oi tht 

pfEsemt nee 4). * WoopjotUni,' how^vef,^lia pEKc 'where ihetpirit aroiw of arighHl 
maflng RM <n Bcastf |» tuppOsed lo abided dod ss maeh it applied W the the 

u well Ai m ttrikin|f lUTtuil ieaiuzieL insidaESii wiEh the KtioDg of 
bttSRi Of the paoL MorfeovcTp w DtgdLoilfcnc form of the * WDOHKKuri/ * inflt ijin Womfuiia, 

and i» ilmmt equival^l id Wonjuna^ (ibW-p j). A* ihj* b Jt nmy be iM the Wotuuna are 
oontiKtBil la Kioie Way with all ^drit duldtes cemra " (Ei 

* IhicL, 4di>'4. 


a person's spiiit-home, just as nura does in the Karadftri tribe. The 
spirit gra is the place where a persoa's pre-existent spirit " sat down 
along " water, where he was seen by his fether, and from which be 
came when entering his mother at the rime oi her tpiickening. It is 
a small natural feature^ always asstjciated with water. The lather 
might see the spirit child in the water when lie is waiting by, or when 
he is swimming or fishing. Thus he might appear a fish or crocodile, 
but when he brings bis catch to land, he sees a spirit child instead, 
so he does not take it home, for it is not really a fish, ftc. But he might 
take the spirit child home in his hand and put it alongside his wife, 
whom it enters, or it might crawl along Uke a small turtle to the 
woman who, in her dream, thrO'a^ dust at it, but does not prevent 
its entry. The spirit child always enters the woman while she is 
asleep, but tltere is no certainty as to the point of entry, 

A person s spirit gra may be outside die country of his horde, 
for his father may have ' found him ' when on * walk-about Such 
a person has the right of residence in two horde gra^ that of his father 
by descent, and that to which his spirit belongs. Normally, however, 
a person's spirit-centre is in his father’s horde gra. Each horde country 
has several spirit gra; for example, Umhalgari contains at least 
fo^een whick I could map, Yura six, and Mararan three_ 

“ These spirit-centres play no part in the arrangement of marriages. 
Probably, too, we should not speak of a spirit gra as belonging to 
a person, but rather of his belonging to it. Reincarnation is not 
associated with the spirit gra, nor, as far as I could gather, is die 
doctrine held, nor do tlie dead ratum to their spirit gra, Tlie dead 
go 10 ftlnga C= somewbete) in the east. A great man, Bundulmiri, 
guards the road,” I 

Tite TriBes of tht Easttm Khaherl^. 

Among the Djerag, Liinga, Djani, Malngin, Mining, and other 
tribes of the Eastern Kimberlies, " A man dreams that a spirit rhild 
approaches him, announcing that it will be incarnated through his 
wife. Sometime later on he brings some food, such as kangiroo, emu, 
snake, fish, bird, ere,, to camj^ but it is so fat that Etis wife refuses to 
eat it. Those near by, noticing that when someone eke eats a bit of 
it he or she becomes sick, say that it is not food, but a baby. The 
spirit child enters the man’s wife at the rime of quickening, arid when 
bom has for its totem the animal, reptile, bird, fish or vegetable that 

* IlhIcL, 


had made the uster sick. This Is apparently one of the totems of the 
particular sut^-seciion to wiiidi the child 'will belong. This implies 
that the felher will use disctedon in choosing the food to ot&r to his 
wife after having seen the prc-eiistent child in a dream. The opinion 
of those around the camp b not really necessary, for a father often 
knows what his child’s totem will he as a lesult of seeing the pre¬ 
existent spirit in the form of tlie creature which he spears. And 
apparently he sees what he b predisposed to see according to the 
sub-sectional toiemism of tlie tribe." * 

Writing of die same tribes, P. M. Kaberry states that, " Generally 
the spiritual genitor (finder of the child) and pater (social father) 
are one and die same person, but if die genitor chooses to hand over 
the spirit child to a tribal brother, or if his wife runs away with another 
man while pregnant, dien it b the pater who bestows on the child 
his own totems, and the right to live and hunt In his own horde 
country. The man finds die child either in the form of a spirit child 
or of some animal or hsh in the pool. It asks him for a mother; 
* Kaga fumdaba gire ’; and that niglit die man dreams iliat the spirit 
child b playing with hb spears and his wife's paper-bark. In making 
bee widi theb possessions she may be pving expression to the fact 
that she is already a member of the family. In the dream, the child 
enters the w'Oman by die foot, while the latter b asleep. Tlie next 
momir^ the nian tdis his wife that —jilrm or * I bin dreaming 
spirit child '. Conception and Jinding do not necessarily coincide : 
in one instance a child was bom four ‘ moons * or months after die 
finding." ® 

The great similarity of these north-western beliefs to Uiose of the 
northern tribes descried in the previous chapter b striking. 

In connection witli the belief in reincamadon, we must accept 
Professor Elkin’s statement that the Nyul-Nyul actually have such 
a belief, though the last word upon thb subject has probably not yet 
been said. The majority of the north-western tribes would seem to 
be unacquamted with the doctrine. 

k « Totemisn) iit Nofdj-W&iccn Australii^" 1^7' 

* Pd M. K^bnryv TTw Fofttil Iliver Lync River Trto« oFNocth-Wcsl AkatTstt^ 4 
Report on FwW. Wortv'* V, i?)?, ^ more detailed iccount of tHse 

if given by Mid Kaberry In " Spirit-dbltdifin Mid ijftheNsirlhKimba^ DivtsLon, 

‘Wtat Austniio,'* Oakun, vl, 

CttAPTEa vn 


By no means now may otic parley widi hint of tfas t ttf tt from smcfc and 

srcme."— Iliad, zx, tztSi. 

The following intei^ung acarouni of the beliefs of some of the native 
tribes of Western Australia relating to conception has been given by 
Mrs. Daisy M. Bates. 

*' Totems in the soutb^ appear to be always given from some 
circumstance attendant on the birth of children.,.. 

" ' Beyoo ' means swollen. * Beyootan/ a female, was so called 
from die fact of her father missing the whereabouts of a kang^oo 
he iiad killed, and finding it in the afternoon all swollen from the 
sun's heat. The girl’s o(^rte or totem was a kangaroo. Put-bee-yan, 
a female, was named after a tame opossum which used to make a 
noise like put-put when coming for Its food. Pui-bee-yan*s totem was 
an opossum. Baaburgurt's name was given him from his fadier's 
observing a sea mullet leaping out of the water and making a noise 
like BiTrr-Baaburr. The kalda or sea mullet is Baahur's totem. Baahui’s 
father and liis father's brothers also had ‘ kalda ’ as their totem, but 
his grandfathers had difierent totems. 

" Nyilgee was named after a swamp wallahy (called Wogrark) 
which her ^ther was about to kill, but In the act of raising bis spear 
the little wallahy escaped. * yaVgy yook'an^ the &ther said, * if he 
had only stood a moment longer, I should have got him,’ and he called 
his daughter ' Nyilgeean'; her totem is the Woorark.” ^ 

" When I visited the natives at Beagle Bay (north-west), the 
women told me that iheir dead children used to take the form of birds, 
and frequently come to the mother's camps. These little spirits were 
supposed to wander among the trees for certain periods." ^ 

In various parts of the south there were certain wittyick^ or sacred 

' t.«. (he Huih oi WeMetn AunnlH. 

* D. M. Biles, ‘' The Muiiege Law's and hHne Cuttonu of ihe Wes AuscrailaA AhcnglM,** 

lodiKxiy, 4^ 

* IbkLp S7i 


i 82 procreative beliefs 

places^ so to speak the dwelling-places of certain Janga^ or KamtyaJ 
These winyicA places might be Only trees, or rocks, a sandbank, a 
hiU, etc. ^aiever they were, the natives in passing them were always 
careful to strew rushes or boughs near them, thereby propitiating 
the spirits dwelling there. Any native neglecting this ceremony was 
sure ro die. 

In some of these winytcA places the Kaanya took die form of 
a bird, whose voice w^as always heard in the vicinity, but whose form 
no native had ever seen. A standing stone near York had a bird as 
its Kmmya^ and a part of the river near Biisselton (south-west) was 
supposed to be inhabited by a Wogal, or mythfcal snake, and was 
wiJtytcA in consequence. 

There was a wmyfrA place in the Chape! district (5outh^west)j 
where loud noises, * like the sound of a fire wi th a strong wind blowing 
On it, were frequently beards Baabur told me that a tiartve on hearing 
die noise once ventured near this place, but he only saw the smoke 
circling round rhe spot, the smoke being the or spirits, 

who used this means to conceal the place from whence the noise had 
proceeded." ® 

According to this accounE it appears probable that the belief in the 
tneamation of spirit children, as well as conceptional totemism, 
existed among the tribes examined by Mrs. Bates, the spirit associated 
with some animal (or plant ?) being incarnated in a woman and bom 
as a child* 

It does not appear altogether certain whetlier the doctrino of 
reincarnation ^'as held by the tribes invesugated by Mrs* Bates. 
Tlie wkytri are cenainly totem places in which reside the Kmmya 
or spirits of the dead* Each wmyich is dilefly, however, the abode of 
a particular totem ancestor. Whether he sends out the spirits of the 
dead to be reincarnated or not is uncertain, and whether the spirits 
of the dead children which wander for certain periods among the 
trees undergo reincarnation subsequenily is likewise uncertain j 
but that children are bom as the result of an act of incarnation, at 
least, would seem to be certain. 

Tlie following facts were collected amongst a number of Western 
Australian tribes by A* R. Brown during the year 1911*® The 
tribes quoted all have totemism with inheritance in die male line* 
Each totcmic clan or group possesses not one, but several totems^ that 

* ific of ih« 

* A. K Brown^ Beli<fi Conesming ChiMhirih Sam A^ciiiiiaa TrLb»/^ irfL 

tSto-z. * 


a^e all equally xlie loicms of every member of tlw group- A man 
may eat or kill his totem. The members of a lotemic group, men 
and women alike, take part in certain localised ceremonies (here 
called £alu^ tauara^ or which are supposed to produce an 

abundant supply of the particular totemic animal^ plant, or otlier 
object with which each ceremony is connected* These ceremonies 
are similar in many r^pects to those of Central Australia called by 
Messrs* Spencer and Gillen intkkmma. Only men and women wliose 
totem it is can take any active part in the ceremony for any particular 
totem* In almost all the tribes quoted it is usual to give a duld a 
personal name that refers in some way, often very obscure, to one or 
other of his or Iter totems. There is no trace of any belief in the 
reincarnation of tlie dead or of totemic ancestors. 

In the In^da tribe, at the mouth of the Gasco 3 me River, I found 
a belief that a child is the product of some food of which the motlier 
has partaken just before her first sickness in pregnancy* My principal 
informant on tliis subfect told me that his father had speared a small 
animal called 6a7tJaru^ probably a bandicoot, but now extinct in this 
neiglibourhood. His mother ate the animal, with the result that she 
gave birth to my informimt* He showed me tiie mark in his side 
where, as he said, he had been speared by his father before being 
eaten by tus mother. A linie girl was pointed out co me as being the 
result of her mother eating a domestic cat, and her brother was 
said to have been produced from a bustard* It may be noted that the 
girl (the elder of the two) was a half-caste, probably, from appearance, 
of a Chinese father, and had a hare-lip. The younger brother was a 
typical bbckfellow boy. The bustard was one of the totems of the 
father of these two children and, therefore, of the children themselves. 
Tills, however, seems to have been purely accidental. In most cases 
tlie animal to which conception is due is not one of the father's totems* 
The species that is thus connected with an individual by birth is not 
in any way sacred to him. He may kill or eat it; he may marry a 
woman whose conceptional animal is of the same species, and he ts 
nor by the accident of his birth entitled to take part in the totemic 
ceremonies connected with it* 

" I found traces of this same belief in a number of the tribes north 
of the Ingarda, but everywhere the belief seemed to be sporadic; 
that is to say some persons believed in it and others did not* Some 
individuals could tell me the arumal or plant from which they or 
others were descended, wliile others did not know or in some cases 


denied that conception was so catjsed. Tiiere were to be met vnth^ 
however^ some beliefs of the same character, A woman of the Buduna 
tribe said that native women nowadays bear half-caste children because 
they eat bread made of white flour. Many of the men believed tliat 
conception is due to sexual intercourse, but as these natives have 
been for many years in contact widi the wldtes tliis cannot be regarded 
as satisfactory evidence of the nature of their original beliefs* 

In some tribes farther to the north I found a more interesting 
and better organized system of beliefs* In tlic Kariera^ Namal^ and 
Injibandi tribes the conception of a cliild is beUeved to be due to the 
agency of a particular man, who is not the father. This man is the 
worom of the child when it is bom. Tliere were tliree different accounts 
of how the wororii produces conception, each of them given to me on 
sevenil different occasions* According to the fir^t, the man gives 
some food, either animal or vegetable, to the woman, and sfie eats 
diis and becomes pregnant. According to the second, the man wlteri 
he is out hunting kills an ammal, preferably a kangaroo or an emu, 
and as it is dying he tells its spirit or ghost to go to a particular woman. 
The spirit of the dead animal goes mio the woman and is bom as a 
child. The third accomu U very similar to the last. A hunter, when he 
has killed a kangaroo or an emu, takes 3 portion of the fat of the dead 
animal which he pboes on one side. This fat turns into what we 
may speak of as a spirit-baby, and follow's the man to bis camp. 
When the man is asleep at night the spirit-baby comes to him and be 
directs it 10 enter a certain woman who thus becomes pnegnant- 
When the child is bom the man acknowledges that he sent it, and 
becomes irs wamm. In practically every case that I examined, some 
forty in aU, the wor&m of a man or woman was a person standing to 
him Or her in the relation of fatheris brother, own or tribal. In one 
case a man had a wori>ru who was his fether^s sister. 

The duties of a man to his w&t&tu are very vaguely definedL 
I was only told that a man ‘ looks after * his wororu^ that is performs 
seiwices for him, and, perhaps, gives him food* The concep- 
tjonal animal or plant is not the totem of either the child or the 
Tlic child has no pameular magical connection with the animal from 
which be is derived. In a very large number of cases that animal 
is either die kangaroo or the emu. 

In One part of the Injibandi tribe I came across another interesting 
custom* When a woman is in labour the woman who is attending 
to her mentions one after another and at intervals the names of die 


pregnant woman's broihers. The name that k mendoned as the chiU 
is brought forth is that of the cJiild's kajadu. I imfortunately only 
discovered this custom just as I was concluding the season's work, 
and was unable to make further inquiries. The custom exists side by 
side with the wororu reiadonship. 

** In several tribes I found toienuc groups that claimed babies as 
their lotem, and performed totemic ceremonies, the avowed object 
of which was to provide a plentiful supply of children- 1 found one 
sudi totemic group in each of the following tribes ; Baiong, Tatgari, 
Ngaluma, Kariera, Namal, and two in die Injibandi tribe. One such 
group in the Injibandi tribe performs its ceremony at a spot near ihe 
Fortescue River, where there is a sort of small cave. According to 
a legend, in the times long ago, the men and women once left the 
camp to go hunting, and left all the babies in the camp in the charge 
of one man. After the odiers had been gone some time the babies 
began to cry. Tliis made die man in charge of them very angry, so 
he took them all to the cave and put them inside and lit a big fire of 
spinifex grass ai the entrance, and so smothered them all. An essential 
part of the toiemic ceremony consists in lighting a fire at the entrance 
of the cave- 

" There i^ a very interesting totemic group in the Kariera tribe. 
The group has a number of edible objects for rotems, and also 
wammgurnj whirlwind, kamBudaj baby, and pM/uiy sexual desire- A man 
who l^longed to ihls group told me when it was decided to atiempt 
to produce an increase of children, the men and wo men of the totemic 
group first proceeded to Kalhana and performed tlie ceremony of the 
increase of sexual desire, which seems to have consisted of setting 
fire to the bark of a tree. After this, but only after it, they moved on 
to Pilgun and performed the ceremony of the baby totem. Tliere h 
thus perfectly clear evidence, daring b^k to a rime before the coming 
of the while man, that there is a distinct assoebrion in the native mind 
between sexual desire and the birth of children amon^t people who, 
at the same time, by their wororu custom, associated pregnancy with 
the eating of food. Those who believe that the beliefs of savages 
are strictly logical will, of course, be shocked at such inconsistency. 
Those of us, however, who, by actual contact with savagt^, have 
leami that even if they do not heed logical consistency less than 
uneducated Europeans (or even the educated when their religious 
beliefs are in question), yet certainly do not heed It more, find in such 
an inconsistency nothing to surprise us. Finally, it may be noted 


[Lai there are traces of a belief that ilie small whirl'wJnds so common 
in tliese parts of Australia may cause a woman to become pregnant. 
This would explain why the wliirlwiitd, sexual desire, and babies 
are all associated by being the totems of a single clan. 

" I may add, to complete the account, two odiet answers I received 
to the question, * Where do babies come from ? * One was, ‘ From the 
moon,' and anotlier,' The magicians make them and send diem into 
womoi.’ One old man, a magician, and a member of a baby-toiem 
clan, nearly got killed a few years ago because a young woman of die 
same tribe died in child-birdi.” 

There are several features in this interesting account of die beliefs 
of the Western Australian tribes investigated by Brown which appear 
to be so unusual as to require to be examined here in some detail. 

In the first pbcc, according to Brown, there is said to be among 
the tribes investigated ” no trace of any belief in reincarnation of die 
dead or of totemic ancestors Children, therefore, do not come 
into being as the result of the incarnation of a pre-existing being who 
has already led an earthly existence, but, among the Ingarda, are 
considered to result direedy from the consumption by the mother 
of a portion of some animal or plant wliich in some way gives rise 
to a child. The animal or planr thus concerned is not Ae totem of 
the child, die totem being inherited from the clan into which it Is 

The facts as given by Brown are somewhat meagre, but the associated 
looseness of the totemic otgankation of the Ingarda, and the obvious 
over-simplification of their procreative beliefs, raises die question 
whether these beliefs were not at one time better organised and more 
closely integrated with the totemic system than when diey were studied 
by Brown. The disruptive influences of the white contact would be 
amply sufficient to explain the condidon, especially as some of the 
Ingarda were already quite willing to believe that intercourse played 
a signiftcant part in conception. The feet that a diild with hare-lip 
was ever allowed to live is an anomaly so exceptional ttiai it may be 
taken to serve as a good indication of the extent to which the integrity 
of the native beliels has broken down- 

Among the tribes farther north of the In^rda in which ** the 
conception of a child is believed to be due to the agency of a par¬ 
ticular man, who is not the fether the wororu of the child, pregnancy 
it is believed may be produced either by a man giving a woman 
some edible object to eat which produces the pregnancy, or when 


out himiing^ the man kills an an i mal, and as ii is dying he tells the 
spirit or ghost to go into a particular woman, or he ntay a pordoo 
of the fat of an animal which turns into a spirit-baby which he then 
directs to enter a certain woman* When the child is bom he acknow¬ 
ledges that he Is its wororu. In almost all cases examined by Browm die 
wotoru stood in relation to the child as father's brother, own or tribal. 
But in one case, it is of importance to note, “ a man had a worom 
who was his father’s sister,” from which bare statement it would 
appear that a woman who stands in the relation of tribal mother to 
the child can bring about the binli of a child to another woman, 
genetally her brother’s wife. 

Now the fact that an individual can cause the spirit or ghost of an 
animal to enter a woman would suggest that these tribes do believe 
in the rdneamation of spirit children, at least of the dead animals 
who have provided rhem with their spirit pans. The beliefs described 
by Brown indicate, however, that the spirit part of the dead animal 
undeigoes a complete transformation in the body of the woman, for 
the conceptJonal animal or plant is not the totem of the diild nor its 
womm ; and there is in no way any connection between them after 
the child is bom. It should be quite clear then that upon such a 
theory there can be no question of a belief in reincarnation. It doe 
not, in fact, exist. 

The baby totems and the increase ceremonies performed in connec¬ 
tion with diem are interesting because they suggest that babies are 
sdll regarded, in these tribes, as primirive beings, who are definitely 
subject to magical control. 

Sexual desire is, of course, everywheie regarded as a very defi nite 
power capable of working great ef&cts upon the individual, and in 
Australia it has a wide, though sporadic, distribution as a totem, 
being found in the extreme west and in the extreme end of Cape 
York Peninsula in the north-east. The fact that the ceremony of 
the increase of sexual desire is performed immediately prior to the 
ceremony of the increase of babies does not, as Brown stales, neces¬ 
sarily prove “ a distinct association in the nadve mind between sexual 
desire and the birth of children ”, although it may well be that there 
actually exists such an association in the narive mind, but the bare 
faa that the one ceremony is followed by tlie other does not prove 
that such an association exists, and in any event, since the narive does 
not understand the teleology of what he experiences as sexual desire 
it is difficult to see what association of any import of a sexual nature 



he can make between the one thing and the other. Whatever, if 
any, association he does make between the two ceremonies it is 
definitely not of a sexual nature, for above ail things else the native 
is not usually incons^cent in his beliefs, and certainly it would be 
for him a difficult matter to attempt to reconcile his procreative 
belieis with a knowledge of such a sexual association as Brown 
suggests. Totemic increase ceremonies are throughout AustraUa 
tlioroughly sclf<ontained procedures, and their purpose can only 
be achieved by the performance of the specific procures associated 
with die particular totem i the performance of ceremonies associated 
with some other totem, cs'en diough that performance celebrates 
events which are in tradidon historically connected with another, 
are quite independent and without the power either to control or to 
be controlled by that other. In the present instance, however, tliis 
does not seem to be the case, and we are bound to assume that there 
may be some cotmecdon between the totem of sexual desire and the 
totem of babies, but, as I have already said, die connection is not 
necessarily of a sexual nature. We must not be led asttay by die 
terms " sexual desire For the nadve “ sexual desire ”, as far as 
we know, represents a merely propulsive power which enables tiim 
to sadsfy his impulses, and to enjoy a certain amount of pleasure in 
doing so, it ts nothing mote, and perhaps a little less than this, 

Tn connecdon with dds dbcusdon it is of interest to note that 
among the Arunta, according to Rolieim, " when a man wants to 
get sexually excited, he will kneel in the same posldon as the father 
knelt and stick the porcupine grass into the rock ^ or radier into the 
earth beside the rode. He will also mb the rock with a stone and 
then the unborn children will come out of the rock and incarnate 
themselves in their prospective mothers." ^ There does not, liowever, 
appear to be any connecdon between the sexual excitement and the 
emanation of the spirit children. 

^ Thit the Co-tem nXan£ «r 

■ C- d Prtoiilivt Culltlzsl Typo^" Inurvaaynal Jiru/md 

iU, 66 * 

Chapter VUI 



'* In order to undentond diis oecdnomy of Nature, tmagiite ro younelf|, 
Sir, that the whole extent of the air... s AJI of the sw^ of everything which 
can live on earth."'—^B esoit de Majujet, TelHa/neJ.- or tAt ffartii Exflaiited, 
Amsterdam, 1743. 

Basedow writes, ** According to the legends of the Larrek^a it 
happened many years ago that a baby boy rose suddenly from the 
ground out of the biurow of a bandicoot (^Petafruks sp.). He was 
seen by the people of the Larrekiya^ who invited him to come to 
their camp, but he refused. Some time after, ’when he had become a 
man, they again met him. Again lie was asked to join the Larnkdya 
men in camp, but once more he declined. Thereupon the men became 
an^', and dragged him to a waierhole, and threw him into it. The 
stranger immediately sank, and five bubbles of air arose to the surface 
as he disappeared. The men sat down and watched the water, when 
suddenly liie face of the man reappeared. The Lcrrek^a hurled a 
spear at him, and he was killed, because he had no father and no 
mother, but was an accomplice of the evil spirit, who, it is asserted 
by the old men of die makes a big fire, from which he rates 

an infiint and places it at ni^t in the womb of a Mm, who must 
then give birtli to the child. 

'■ In the ordinary course of events, if a man, when out hunting, 
kills an animal or collects any other article of dial, he gives it to his 
who must eat it, believing tliat the respective object brings about 
the successful birtli of a piccaninny. 

In other words, conception is not regarded as a direct result of 
cohabitation." * 

Of the southern tribes Elkin writes as follows ;— 

The dream totem in all the tribes of the western group in South 
Australia is the djugvr; that is, if a person dreams of a i^ugur or local 

^ H. '* Ncstci on dw W«sem OhiuI Tiilwaf die Nordieni Tcrniory of Stiuih 

Auitnlis^'* 7mn#oWt4t tvtJ and R^pori pf JLryal 


totem, a person belonging to that totem will soon come along lo the 
dreamer. But just ^'est of the north-western comer of this state, the 
dream totent ts the spectes associated with a person’s conception a$ 
described below. 

“ All the western tribes of South Australia believe that a definite 
place (or, perhaps, a few places), called Yualanya, is the abode of pre¬ 
existent spirit children. This has nothing to do with the totem of a 
chiJdp Children of dlfierent totems may all come from theone Yualanya, 
Having left there, some of them are believed to play about on the 
flowers of the mulga trees. The spirit-home is described as a rock- 
hole, possibly 3 cave, contaming water, with a sanddiill near by. 
Women must be very careful how tliey approach and obtain water 
at that place, or else child-spirits may enter tliem. 

in ilie north-eastern part of the area the spirit child dianges its 
sex at incarnation, TTius a woman who dreams that a girl-spirit lias 
entered her womb will give birth to a son. 

The tribes of south-east central ^ff^estem Australia who visit 
^verton and Mt. Margaret believe that spirit children enter women 
in the guise of food. If after having caien something a woman is 
sick, and later on dreams of a spirit child, she realizes that when she 
thought she was eating food a spirit-baby had entered her. Some 
years after hirth the child is mfoimcd of its mode of entry into the 
mother's womh, tliat is, of the particular article of food (some animal 
or plant) associated with the mother’s first sickness of pregnancy. 
This animal or plant then becomes the diild’s totem, that is, Iiis 
s^bol in another person’s dream. As far as I could ascertain, no 
ritual attitude is adopted towards this dream totem. 

** Informants told me that conception could not take place apart 
from eating ‘ child-food Bjygar myths explain the association of 
spirit children with the foods concerned.”^ 

We have only to notice here that in this account there is no evidence 
of a belief in reincarnation among the tribes of south-east central 
Western Austraba, but among the western South Australian tribes 
it do& not appear from this description whether the belief in teincama- 
tion is present or not. 

The follotidtig extremely tnieiesdng account of the procreative 
beliefs of the Nimbalda tribe who lived (and perhaps still live) in tlic 
exticine north of South Australia in the viernity of Mount Freeling, 
and are thus neighbours of the centra! tribes, is of importance because 
' A.P.EUlJn,“TheSodjlOrgrai™«5ofSoulhAuHraliinTrilj«." OttjMst, 


in first place ft represents the fullest account of the procreaiive 
beliefs of an Australian tribe available up to the time of the puhhca- 
tfon of Spencer and Gillen's first book in 1899, and because, in the 
second place, it represents one of the most interesting accounts of 
these beliefs that we have. Published exactly twenty years earlier 
titan Spencer and GillenV record of the Axunta beliefs^ Smith's 
account of the Nimbalda beliefs seems to have been completely 
unnoticed by those who were in a position to suggest the proper 
interpretation. Smith writes:" 

" They believe that two old women called ‘ Yammutu ' live towards 
the east a long way (paltini/v), and that when tain comes they lie 
down on their backs with their legs open, and dw water runs into 
their person and causes them to bear a lot of young blacks called 
Muree ; who, as they grow up, start westward, always tlirowing a 
small waddy* called before them, till one of them meets a 

blackfellow with his luire. The Muree, being invisible, then walks 
in the hlackfellow’s tracks to make htm or lier look like the black- 
fellow, and then tltrow's the small waddy under the iltumbnail 
or great toenail, and so enters into the woman’^s body. She 
is soon pregnant, and in due time gives birth to an ordinary 
child." i 

The two old women who live in the east, the Yammutu, are probably 
tlic mythical ancestors of the Nhobalda, standing, possibly, in the 
same relation to the latter as Nambakulla does to the Arunia. The 
Muree, which result from the entry of rain into the Yammutus’ bodies, 
are obviously spirit children, and the wreichu Is doubtless a Churinga, 
Tlie presence of Churinga suggests tiie existence of a totemic organiza¬ 
tion, and tile fact that a Muree elects to enter a woman whose liusband 
meets with his or her approval indicates, though it need not necessarily 
be so, patrihneal orgsmizanori of the tribe. There is no evidence 
of a belief in reincarnation. 

The following passages culled from Howiti's The Native Tribes 
of South-East Australia^ represents all that is to be discovered 
relating to die procreative beliefs of the tribes described in that work. 
It is a poor showing, but Howitt was chiefly interested in what lie 
considered to be the social organization of the tribes widt wliidi 
he came into contact, and apparently the procreative beliefs of these 

* H O, Stn\±t ”Tbc Tfibe kiiha Faj Nor^ u Moum ODntaaiod in 

G. TapliRt TAd Afonner/f. anJ fA^nguagu ^lAf Auuraiian 

Adcbktif, I $79^ S3. 



peoples did not come within the purview of his understanding of 
those terms. 

Howitt states of the Tatalii and Keramin tliat “ they believe that 
the daughter Is of tlie father solely, being only nurtured by her 
mother", ^ 

Of the Volga! he says that " A Volga! man of the Malian class, 
in speaking to me of the practice of betrothal, said tluit a father could 
do what he liked with his daugliter, because the child Is lus, and * he 
only gives it to Ids wife to take care of for liim' ”, - 

Concerning tlic WurunjerH Howitt writes, ** The line of descent 
runs through the males. As it was put to me, ‘ The child comes from 
the man, and the woman only takes care of it.* Betak ^ said in regard 
to this,' 1 remember what old Boberi, the brother of BUli-billeri, said 
at Dandenong, when some of the boys were grumbling and would 
not mind him. The old man got vested, and said to his son,' Listen 
to me 1 i am here, and tlierc you stand with my body,* *' '* 

Tliese statements clearly indicate that the mother of a child is 
regarded among these tribes, as among all other Australian tribes 
accounts of which we have thus for had, as a relatively unimportant 
agent in the procreative process. “ The child comes from tlie man 
and the woman only tnlces cane of it.” Tlie difTerence here would 
appear to be that whilst among the tribes whtdi we have thus fkr 
considered neither one nor the other parent is considered to stand 
in a directly genetic rehtionshipto the offspring, among those southern 
tribes, upon the other hand, there w ould appear to be a recognition 
of the existence of die rdaiionsiup between father and child. “ Hie 
child comes from the man.” Vbat, it may be asked, is the meaning 
of these words ? And what are we to understand by the remark of 
Berak who said to his son, Listen 10 me I I am here, and there you 
stand with my body’*.^ 

Tlie obvious implication of tliese remarks, especially of the latter, 
is that die &ther, the social father, ts recognized to be the actual 
genicor of his cliild. In reality this is far from being the case, in fact 
among these tribes it is quite impossible to determine who the actual 
lather of a child ts, for the form of marriage known as ” Pirrautau " 
marriage which prevails among these tribes, whereby a man enters 
into a form of marriage with a number of w'omen, and a woman like¬ 
wise enters into a similar relationship with a number of men, nalumlly 

■ TbkL, 

* Ib«L. 


renders it an extremely difficult matterj and practically to 

determine die fadier of a particular woman's chi Id» Tlie relationship 
between fadier and child cannot therefore be mot^y at iriostj than a 
purely social one. What Boberi had in mind when he said to his son: 
“ There you stand with my body/* it is impossible to teU, it may 
have been some such idea as we have seen to have obtained in a not 
far distant people^ the Nimbalda, tliat is to say, the idea that the 
child as a sdll uniticamated spirit models its body after that of its 
prospective father, but for this suggestion there is no evidence; 
what, howe^'cr, is die most likely explanation of this; remark is dial 
since among die Wurunjerri die clan totem is inJierited and descends 
in the male line a man's children wll all necessarily be of the same 
** body " as their ffidier, if we equate “ body here with totem ”, 
as I think it is permissible to do, for everywhere in Australia an 
individual's body and Ids totem are closely idendhed. Upon tliis 
view, then, what old Boberi probably meant when he remonstrated 
with his son was that It was siiamefiil to be disiespecdiil and unmindtng 
of one who was of the same body, the same £esh, that is, of the same 
totemic origin as hiimelL 

That the father was considered to be only the social father of his 
child among the Dieri has recendy been conclusively shown by 
Professor A. P. Elkin who, in 1930, investigated the tribes of die 
Lake Eyre r^on and who most iUuniJnadngly writes as follows 

" The tribe is divided into two matrilineal moieties, called Maiari 
and Kar^^ru respecti vely, eadi of which includes a nun^r of totemic 
social ebns, called MaJu* These are also marnUneal, being divided 
between the moieties so diat the same clan does not appear in the two 
moieties of any one tribe* Now, according to Austr^ian thought, a 
person does not inherit his flesh and blood from his fadier or through 
his bdier's line, but from his mother and her modier- The father 
generally " Ends * the pie-existent spirit of his unborn child in a dream 
Or vision, and henceforth is Its social, spiritual and ceremonial parent, 
but he is not one flesh and blocKl with lU Blood relationship is only 
traced in the maternal line- Thus, a man shares the one flesh and 
blood witli his brothers and sisters, his modief and her brother, his 
mother's mother and her brother and so on, because diey have all 
ultimately been incarnated through the wonffi of one woman, that is, 
a maternal grandmother in the *ndi ^ degree. Now, in the Dieri and 
associated tribes, all these persons belong to a man’s own totemic 
cbn, and so, when he refers to his relations, he means, in the first 



insnmcc, ihe members of his own totemic clan, for this includes these 
blood rebtions just referred to. He therefore speaks of them as his 
‘ flesh \ just as the totem itself ts frequenily denoted by the word for 
flesh, and being one's own flesh, is neither killed nor eaten.” ^ 

As br as the btlwi’s reiationstiip to die child is concerned then, the 
position is clear, he is its sixial (adier; they are both of diflerent 
flesh- Elkin’s use of the terms “ blood ” and *' flesh ” are, of course, 
perfectly le^timate if they are understood to mean wbat they are 
apparently intended to mean, namely, diat since each individual is 
bom into a matrilineal totctnic clan his rebtionship to the clan totem 
and to other individuals is determined by and can be traced through 
the maternal line alone—since all members of the same totemic cbn 
are in common descended from the same ancestral totem, or flesh— 
and since one’s flesh is transmitted from the anccsttal totem through 
the female line one must clearly he of the flesh of one’s mo titer’s 
totem. The father “ finds ” the child, cares for it, and is head or 3 
senior of the local horde to which it belongs. He is concerned with 
the tnitbtion of a son and with the arrangement of die marriages of his 
children. To his fully initiated son he hands on " his ceremonial 
local totem which is patrilineal in descent and includes a sacred myth, 
site, and ritual, possibly assodaied with the increase of the toiemk 
species.”^ This totem, of course, is quite different from tlte matri¬ 
lineal clan totem. 

It may be noted here that among the south-eastern tribes the belief 
seems to be general that after death the spirit leaves the body and goes 
to live up in the sky, from which there is no return ® Howitt states 
definitely that be has ” nor been able to And that the Dieri Imvc the 
Arunta belief in reincarnation of the ancestor, nor,” lie adds, “ have 
I found any trace of it in the tribes of soutli-east Australia,” ^ Elkin, 
we have seen, speaks of the incsrnaitdn of spirit children among the 
Dieri. Tt seems fairly certain, therefore, that among the tribes 
investigated by these students, and reported upon by Howitt’s cone- 
spondents, the belief in reincarnaiion is non-existent. Such a state- 
mem, however, does not pieclude the possibility that the belief may 
exist among some, at least, of die luiinvesiigated tribes of this region. 

Ol the Afura-muros Howiti writes, ” At the present time they are 
said to inhabit trees, which are, therefore, sacred. It is the medicine- 

^ A, P. Elkin* The Dteri Xiuhip $yi«iii ” Jmm, /nzt, London^ ki, 

^ 7 bi(L* ■ A- W. HqwiU* JVar. Tri^, 4U-444. 

* Ibiil, 


men alone who are able to see them» and from tliera they obtain their 
magical powers, 

“ Some of these legends tdentiiy nannal features of the country 
with the Mura~maras ; for instance, tlie thermal springs near Lake 
Eyre with the Muta-mura hskah^^Bfa^ and certain pemLficarions to 
the soutli-cast of TjiItji Eyre where some Mura^rnttra women were 
turned into stone. Profssor Baldwin Spencer has told me that the 
equi^'alents of die Mura-muras occur with the Uiahunna, and die 
places are poinied out where they died and where their spirits still 
are,. - 

“ Tliis evidently connects the Mura-mura belieis of die Dieri with 
the Mcheruiga heliefs of the Artinta . . ^ 

With Howitt*s brief remarks it is of interest to compare those of 
rwo recent observers, one of whom has lived in the territory for 
more dian tw'enty years, on die tribes Uving in the same re^on 
as that described hy Hqwitt, The Wonkonguru, wiio live between 
the Warburton and Diamandna Rivets east of Lake Eyre, are, 
in respect of their procreative beliefs, thus described by these 
authors ^: 

“ The Wonkonguru group, whicl) includes amongst others die 
Dieri, Yaurorka and Ngameni, seems to have a sort of ancestor 
worship, the ancestors being the mooras, 

" A moora sometimes appears to have been a master-miud who 
was the hist to discover angling, or through whom anything was 
hrst discovered or done, Tliey were tile hrst to fashion human 
beings out of lizards, and they formed the sun. To them is attributed 
the making of mardtn or totems, and ceremonies or corroborecs 
invariably have the moora bdiind tltem, instigating or appointing, 
and thus giving them authority. The old men maintain dieir induence 
partly by tecerving communicadons in dreams from the mooras. 
They thus tell W'here to sink for water and where game may be fotmd. 
Animals, as well as inanimate things, have their mooras, and, as 
Dindbunna said, ‘ Every man has a moora,’' a remark that was another 
day repeated to me verbatim by Koodnacadie. 

Sometimes one may originate a whole tribe by leaving potential 
spirit children in rocks or in trees, wlience diildren are born to women 
who come in contact with them. For that the dither has anything 
to do with concepdon is absolutely foreign to the native mind, 

'■ TbetL, 4*»- 

* G. Hume and Gk XJfi m Cnmi/ diurttoEo^ Landoc, 1934- 

196 procreative beliefs 

“ Sometimes two, thtee, or more may be the ancestors of the tribe. 
This is the case witli the Dieii. Rarely has a man a definite moota 
to himself, as has Dintibutinaj ‘ the miier of the Atma,’ * and in his 
case the name is handed down through his mother. 

^ The moora, one hears tliem say, cannot die, but yet many of 
their legends turn on tlie death of the individual moora. It seems 
that though dead they yet live, and in this ‘ spirit * existence they 
appear far more to be feared than if really alive. One reason, old 
NiitaiaculHe told me, for the kurdtateka shoe being worn was not to 
prevent its being tracked'—that would be easy—but radier to cause 
the uncertainty of knowing wkai was being tracked. It might he 
a moom. What would happen if they did meet one, nobody could 
say ... 

“ Stones often appear to commemorate the death or disappearance 
of a moora. Trees sometimes spring and seem to have grown up 
where tiie moora first came or last went. These trees are, of course, 
never cut down, nor are those into which ilieir ancestors liavc been 
metamorphosed. All these objects are endowed with magical force, 
and are often avoided as kootchi (uncanny) if they represent die moora 
tod have his powers. Tiie reverence paid to mooras is largely the 
reverence of fear, and anything strange or unusual is set down to 
them. Tile Aurora Ausimlki in this way creates great alarm, and to 
appease die moora indisctiminaic intercouriie is practised. This 
of course, quite against the old men’s advantages and may therefore 
be looked upon as a sacrifice on their pan."^ 

The mooras are obviously die tribal or totemic ancestors of the 
Wonkonguru. The remark dial ** every man lias a moora ** may be 
variously interpreted to mean that (i) every man has some totemic 
affiliation widia moora, or (2) that every man is himself the leiticarm- 
tion of a moota, or that (3) the moora is a sort of spirit-^louhle, very 
mudi hke the Anmta Aiumburinga. Tliis last would seem to be the 
most likely interpretation. 

The statement that “ Rarely has a man a definite moora to himself, 
as lias Diniibunna, ‘ the maker of the khta^' and in Ids case the name 
is handed down through his mother," is not unsuggestive of a belief 
in tdneamation, but the meaning of the statement is not at all clear, 
and it may simply mean tliat Dtndbunna and his mother happen to 
be the sole representatives of a particular totem. 

It is important to note here that it is definitely stated that stones 

^ AfrMfc bacCmeian^ * 


and trees in some cases arose to mark the spot where a moota eidier 
died or disappeared (went into the ground) or first appeared, and 
that in other cases the ancestors themselves were directly meta¬ 
morphosed into trees. It will be recalled tliat in considering the 
Arunta beliefs in this connection there was some doubt as to whether 
or not some ancestors, as Strehlow asserted, were actually meta¬ 
morphosed into trees. Spencer held that he had never encottmered 
the belief. Tlie present report would, however, lend some support 
to Strchlow^s statement, though it must, of course, be borne in mind 
tliat the Wonkonguru are situated at some distance from the Arunta. 

That the Wonkonguru have no knowledge of physiological 
parentage is clew, and that children are regarded as emanating from 
totem centres to undergo incarnation in women is also clear, the 
totem being mairilineally determined. 

Writing of the Euahlayi tribe of north-western New Soutli Wales, 
Mrs. K. Langlob Parker gives the following account of their pto- 
cieadve beliefs ^: 

*' To begin at the beginning, Bahloo, the moon, is a sort of patron 
of women. He it is who creates the ^rl babies, assisted by Wahn, 
the crow, sometimes. 

" Should Wahn attempt the business on Ids own account die result 
is direful t women of Ids creating arc always noisy and quarrelsome. 

" Bahloo's favourite spot for carrying on the girl manufacturing 
is somewhere on the Culgoa. On one of lire creeks diere is to be 
seen, when it is dry, a hole in the ground. As wwer runs along the 
bed of this creek, gradually a stone rises from this bole. As the water 
rises it rises, always keeping its top out of the water. 

“ Tills is die Goomwh, or spirit-stone, of Bahloo. No one would 
dare to touch this stone where die baby girls* spirits are launched into 

In the same neighbourhood is a clear water-hole, die rendezvous 
of the snakes of Bahloo. Should a man go to drink there lie sees no 
snakes, but no sooner does he drink some of the water dian he sees 
hundreds ; so even water-^drinkers see their snakes. 

'* The name of die hole is Dahn. 

*' Spirit-babies are usually dispatched to Waddahgudfaelwoti and 
sent by her to hang promiscuously on trees, until some women pass 
under where they are, then they will seize a motlier and be incarnated. 
Tliis resembles the Arunta belief, but with the Euaiilayi die spirits 

^ K. TnA^^ j^ titiJj iff JfhtriginaiJJfiw Luxiiio^ 


are newly freshly created beings^ not reincamaiions of ancestral 
souls, as among the Amnta. To live a child rnusi have an eanhiy 
father i that it has not ts known by its being bom with teeth. 

" Wurrawilberoo is said to snatch up a baby spirit somctiities and 
whirl it along to some woman he wish« to discreet, and through ilic 
medium of this woman he incarnates perhaps twins, or at least one 
baby.. * 

" Babies are sometimes sent directly to thetr motbeis without the 
Coolabah-tree or whirlwind mediiuiL 

" The bronze mistletoe branches with their orange-red flowers arc 
said to be the disappointed babies whose wiling in vain for mothers 
has weaned the spirits who transform them into these branches, die 
red dowers being formed from their baby blood. The spirits of babies 
and children who die young are reincarnated, and should their first 
mother have pleased them tliey choose her again and are called 
millanhoo—the same again. 

They can instead, if they like, clioosc some otlier woman they 
know, whicli seems very accommodating in those presiding over 
the rcincarnalion department. 

" Sometimes two baby spirits will hang on one branch and incarnate 
themselv^ in the same woman, who as a result is the mother of twins 
and the object of much approbrium in the camp. In fact, in the old 
days, one of the twins w'ould have been killed...‘ 

The point to be noticed in this account of the Euahlayi beliefs is 
that the doctrine of reincarnation is limited only to ilie spirits of 
children who have died young, a belief whicli is almost invariably 
present in all those tribes in w^hich the more general doctrine of 
reincarnation ts absent. 

^ tti±, { 0 - 1 * 

Chapteb IX 


sir, bui a tDin is to gnird Jumself against taking a thing in general."— 
Sau. Johnson. 

In tile fotegoing pages the fkst-Iiand accounts of the procreative 
as well as the rebted beliefs of the various tribes of Australia have 
been given in the words of the investigatorB themselves. From these 
accounts, I think, it is evident that w'hat has been reported in the 
majority of instances represents the orthodox doctrine of each tribe, 
and, with the exception of the aberrant tribes to the north and nor[h-> 
east, it is held according to this doctrine that children are the result 
of tile immigration into a woman of a spirit child whidi is of an 
ori^n going back into the far distant myihological past. From the 
variety of conte 3 as in which we have seen these beliefs to function 
it is clear diat their chief socdolo^cal function is to assodate a cliild 
with a definite pater ^ actual or dassificaloty, that is, with die mother's 
husband, whether or not he is the actual genitor. Thus Jt is tliat by 
means of this belief in die immigration of spirit children into women 
the proper totcmic and moiety membership of the cliild is secured. 
More importantly, an individual is by this means always assodated 
with a definite locality irtespeedve of where he may have been bom, 
especially, as we have seen, b diis the case where the individual is 
linked to the pairilinea] group. Tliere are, of course, local variations 
in the manner tn which these beliefs function, but it is clear tliat they 
are essentially similar in nature wherever they occur. 

Tt is evident, then, that these belief form a fundamental feature not 
alone of Australian cosmology, but also of Australian social organisa¬ 
tion, and, as such, it is also evident that these beliefs occupy a dominam 
place in the nadve mind, although, as we shall see bter, it is not for 
these reasons alone that they do so. 

When, then, the white investigator endeavours to discover what 
the ahotiginal beliefs are relating to the process of coming into being 
he is, of course, naturally given die orthodox account of the matter. 
When he intpiires whether intercourse has any conneaion with 



pregnancy or childbirth he is in most cases informed that intercourse 
serves to prepare the woman for die entry of a spirit diiid into tier 
but tliat this preparation is not in itself the cause of pregnancy or 
of the entry of the child into the woman, fnteicourse is always declared 
not to be the cause of conception^ for according to ortliodox teaching 
and belief children are produced by otlier means. 

This is essentially the information which Spencer and Gillen 
obtained in 1E96 from tlie central tribes and which tliey reported m 
1 899, and it is essentially die kind of information which the majority 
of subsequent investigators who have worked among die tribes of 
Australia have obtained, and as such it may be regarded as cori^ilttidng 
tlie faithful record of Australian orthodox belief From these findings 
it has been concluded by almost ail the investigators themselves 
and by numerous students of thdr recorded observations diat tlic 
Australians are ignorant of the rebdonsliip which exists between 
intercourse and prt^anoy^ that they ane unaware of die fact that 
incercoutse is the direct cause of concepiion (we may, of course^ 
omit the scientific efficient cause, namely, fertilization). As far 
as orthodox belief is concerned we lia\'e seen that diat relationship 
is ignoredj although in no entirely so, for in practically every 
instance Intercouise h regarded as having some connection with preg¬ 
nancy ; in some cases this connection is of a very vague nature, in 
others die connection or relationship is regarded as a neeessarv 
one since, as a rule^ a spirit child will not enter a woman who has not 
been prepared by tnietcoufse.. In other words, intercouree prepares 
the way for that factor to become operative which is the cause of 
pregnancy, but imercouise is not cither alone or in conjunction with 
other factors the cause of pregnancy, Ir is clear then, that by whatever 
term we may describe this relationship, a certain relarionship is 
recognized to exist between mtercourse and die entry of a spirit 
diild into a woman, but that this relationship is not of a causal nature^ 
All this is orthodox belief, but we have already seen that it lias been 
shown by Rolidm in n^pect of ceruun central tribes, by FuroeU 
and by Warner in respect of certain of the bt northern rrib^, and by 
Tljomson in respect of the Cape York tribes, that a much more 
definite connection is recognized to exist between intercourse and 
pregnancy than this. Rolieim has claimed that a true knowledge of 
the facts exists in secular belief side by side widi the spirit conception 
beliefs of orthodox teaching, but thai the former U simply repressed 
in favour of the dominant orthodox beliefs. Upon the basis of Hs 


own fbidings Warner lias independaidy arrived at a similar condtision^ 
and Thomson has recently also made a similar suggestiori. 

h may at once be said diat all this is possible parpcularly in view 
of the fact that the field-worker does not generally succeed in obtaining 
any information other tlian that which is orthodox. Secular belief is 
for the most part determined and dominated by orthodox reUgious 
teachingj and it !s unusual for the investigator to obtain any data 
rtdaong to the genesis and development of belief in primitive cultures. 
We do know, however, that many of the childhood beliefs of die 
Australian undergo an appreciable modification by the time lie becomes 
a fiilJy initiated member of the tribe, and there ts no particular reason 
to believe that his notions concerning the nature of procreation should 
not be among those affected^ There % however, no positive evidence 
that this is so, but it is a possibility to be borne in mind^ for it may be 
pointed out that there is no necess^uy reason why the Australian should 
not pass from a childhood belief in the virtues of intercourse to the 
adult belief in the virtues of spirit children, just, for example, as we 
ourselves advance from ilie uninitiated diildhood belief m the stork 
to the esoteric adult belief in intexcourse as dte true cause of duldren* 
But we must be on our guard against such analogies. Until further 
intensive researches liave been carried out in connection with this 
problem, preferably on Australian peoples uncontaminated by foreign 
influences^ the question as to whether or not the Australian aboriginal 
is compki^ly ignorant of the facts of procreation cannot be definitely 
setiled^ we have at present, and what I have given in the 

foregoing pages, represent field observations on the beliefs and practices 
of native peoples, and beyond what they tell us we cannot, of course, 
go. Tims far we Iiave succeeded in resolving some contradictions and 
raising a necessary doubt. 

It should be remembered that the reports of field studies of aboriginal 
ciilmres are generally almost entirely concerned with the report of 
obsen'utions; these observarions represent the records of die 
investigator's experiences in a particular colligation of phenomena* 
and as far as is possible within the time a: his disposal the investigator 
anempts to make these records as comprehensive and as compleie 
as lie can. Whatever his own views may be concerning tlie dieorerical 
implications of the data collected by him, tlierc can necessarily be 
very little room for the expressio n of them in the dcxrumenmry preseuta-' 
don of his evidence. When the investigator has succeeded in putting 
into the terms of one language what has been lold him, generally 



through the medium of a native interpreter, m terms of another 
language wliat, according to the natives’ notions, is the meaning 
of the ceremonies^ customs, e\'ents, etc., which he has observed or 
been told about, his record becomes a source from which students 
of man and society draw the material for their studies. It often happens 
that the observations of the fietd investigator stand glaringly in 
opposition to the tenets of the theory of which a particular student 
may have become enamoured. In such a case tt becomes necessary 
for the theoretician to analyse the observations of the field Investi^tor 
in tile attempt to show where they may be at fault, or where, wlien 
properly interpreted, they are not actually in opposition, but ratltcr m 
agreement with their critic’s general theory. 

To the subject of the procreative ideas of the Australian aborigines 
there iuts been devoted a fairly considerable amount of *' higher 
crincism '* of this sort, and in recent years the discoveries of Malinowski 
in respect of the procreative beliefs of the Trobriand Islanders liavc 
snoce^ed in eliciting a volume of die same son of criticism almost as 
great as that which lias been devoted to the Australian roatcrial. 

Before proceeding with the discussion of the significance of these 
beliefs in relation to these various criticisms, it will be convenient 
liere to summarize tlte procreative beliefs of the Australians as we 
have liad them placed before us by the various audiorities for the five 
great regions of Australia. 

Tke Cttitral Triies. 

Among the central tribes wc find a belief in eponymous ancestors 
who ” in the beginjung ” transformed various natural objects, and 
certain half-formed creatures, into men and women. In the beginning, 
tlie ancestors deposited numbers of Chminga, with each of which was 
associated a spirit or soul, at certain spots, and themselves entered the 
earth at various other places. At each of the spots where these Churinga 
were deposited, and where the anccstots tiiemselves entered tile earth, 
there immediately arose some natural feature such as a tree, or rock, 
water-hole, etc., to mark the place. At each of these places a number 
of ancestors belonging to the same animal or plan t group from which 
diey had been originally transformed are always to be found. Should 
a woman of the proper tribal moiety and class pass in the vicinity of 
diese totemic spirit abodes, and providing that she is considued 
sufiiciendy pleasing by one of the spirit children, who ate always on 
the look out for the proper w'Omen, she will be entered in the fomi of a 


diminutive «pfHt duld, aud thus be tendered pregnant Hie totem 
associated ^Hth the lerriioty or [oiem centre in which the spirit child 
etiteted the mother becomes the totem of tlie child there incarnated 
in her. This manner of obtaining the totem has been called by Frazer 
conceptionai tote/ijism^ since the totem of the individual is determined 
by the place at wliich the modicr liappened to be, or believes she ivas 
last at, or by the victuals site ate last, at the moment when she first 
felt the child within her. 

Tlie term ctmcepthnal is perliaps unfortunately chosen to describe 
such candinons, for the notion of cofKiptiim is one that is utterly 
foreign to the native mind. When he speahs of the entry of a spirit 
ctiild into a woman the native means semetiung quite unlike anything 
that wc may understand by the term £oncepti/>n. Wliat he understands 
by titese words is that a spirit enters a w'oman, undergoes an 
autochthonous development wltiun her, is bom of her, and is in no 
way physically connected or engendered either by her or by any other 
person. This, of course, is the exact converse of whai w'e understand 
by " conception Tlie Ausrtalian ahorigines, in fact, have no idea 
of conception ai all, and it is for this reason alone unfortunate tliat 
a term sitouid have been selected of which the meaning is most patently 
contrary to the significance of the conditions it is supposed to describe. 
Tlic term lias, however, assumed a defuiice place in the literature 
of ethnology, and it would be the cause of needless confusion to 
attempt to substitute some other for it at this date. 

W'lien an individual dies according to Spencer and Gillen, his spirit 
returns to the totem abode from which it emanated, and the Churinga 
wdth which ids spirit was assodated is placed in the sacred store¬ 
house. The Churinga is variously supposed to be tflrown at tlie woman 
by its spirit owner, or dropped by it as it enters its chosen “ mother 
According to all other investigators die spirit at deatli leaves the body 
and departs never to lemm. The spirit child is apparently perfectly 
free in die eiterdse of its choke of die woman it will enter, and 
though it con be stimulated to do so, it cannot be coerced, as 
when a man surreptitiously visits a totem abode and by the per¬ 
formance of a simple ceremony causes a spirit child 10 enter some 

In all the central tribes a frequent means by wrhkh a spirit child 
enters a w'omao is through die agency of some part of an animal or 
plant with which die spirit cliJld Is associated. 

Tlie dream is a common medium through which the fact that a 


iR'omaJi bfls been entered by a spirit child^ as well as iEs ori^^ is 
announced either to herselfi. or to one of her relatives. 

The spirit children mostly represent beings of Akhera origin; 
some, however, are identified writh the spirit pans of famous old men, 
who were noted for their learning in tribal rnatteia- There is no 
evidence of a general belief in reincarnation, bur only in the incarna¬ 
tion of spirit children o f Alchera ori^n, and the occasional incarnation 
oi an Alchejia ancestor himself. Tlie spirit part of an individual 
is not regarded as eternal and does not undergo repeated incamation- 

Tlie body is reco^is&ed as disrincily sepamte from the spirit. 
Tlie body is always derived from an Alcliera ancestor, and in many 
cases the spirit ortgii^ies from the transformed body of such an 
ancestor, although in most cases tlie spirit has an indq^idem Alclieia 

Intercourse is considered usual among die Aninta, and necessary 
among die Loritja, as a condition preparatory to the entry of a spirit 
child into a woman, but intercourse is not in any way regarded as a 
cause of pregnancy. 

In every tribe the modicr h regarded as the passive medium through 
whom the child Is imtismitced into the tribe; there is no conception 
of any physical or blood connection beiween the mother and the 
child, nor is such a connection recogni2ed to exist between father and 
child. There is thus an ignorance of physiological maternity as well 
as of physiolo^cai paternity. 

Descent of die lotem is counted neither in the male nor in the femate 
line among the Anmta, Laritja, lUaum, Unmatjera, Kaitisha, and Is 
generally reckoned in che paternal line among die Warramunga. In 
the Urabimna tribe in which descent is counted in rite maternal line, 
die same beliefs Jiold equally as strongly- In all diese and die neigh¬ 
bouring tribes the belief in spirit incarnation represents the orthodox 

TXe NhnAem 7 r£iej* 

Among the tribes of tlie Northern Territory the cosmogonic myths 
and die procnearive beliefs are essentially of the same nature as those 
that are to be found among the central tribes, except tliat wlulst among 
the central tribes a relatively few individtials bear the names of totemic 
ancestorsj among the northern tribes every individual is, according 
to Spencer and Gillen, known to be the reincarnation of a totemic 


According lo Purcell Warner ccrmn of tlie tribes of Amltem 
Land are aware of die that seminal Quid is related to die productiort 
of pregnancyj and according to Warner this belief is held along with 
spirit procreative beliefe which are precisely of the same nature as those 
found elsewiifire in Australia. 

patrilineal toteniism is the rule. 

TAc Tri&^ &J~ J/ortA-£asi£rn j4t£Sirdlia. 

Among the tribes of Nonli Queensland it is hebeved that a woman 
may be rendered pregnant in any one of the following ways : (i) 
by being told to be entered by a spirit child by a parricular man, {p!) 
by sitting over a fire upon which she has roasted a particular edible 
object that has been ^ ven to her By the prospective ^ler of the child, 
or (3) by ha\ing a spirit child directly insened into her womb by 
one of the nature^spirits. There ts no evidence of a belief in reincarna¬ 

Among those Cape York tribes whose beliefs relating to procTeadon 
have not undergone appreciable modification as the result of die 
influence of extra-Australian contacts, tliere is a belief in the existence 
of spirit centres from which children arc sent out to enter women. 
The child generally inlierits die totem of the clan into which it is bom, 
and since this is organized upon a patrilineal pattern, die totemic 
descent may be said to be indireedy pairilineal. 

Amorig these tribes sexual iniercourse is usually associated with the 
sending out of children from the totem centres and dieu: entry into 
women, but sexual intercourse is not regarded as the cause of 

TAe NoriA-ff^^sum 

Among die north-western tribes children are regarded as emanating 
from totemic centres following which they undergo incamaiion in a 
woman. The entry of the spirit child into the woman is always 
associated widi a dr^m in wliich the feiher finds the child j among 
the Niol-Niol and among the Bareli the spirit child ts usually just 
simply 'Vfound’" by die father whiki out hunting. Tlie totemic 
territory in which the fadier “ finds die spirit child, which is, of 
course, usually his own totemic territory, normally determines die 
totem of die child when bom. Thus patrilineal totemism is the rule 
among these tribes too. The belief in reincaination b 10 be found 
among these two tribes according to Elkin, although diere is no 



evidence that it exists among the other tribes diat have so far been 
investigated in the north-west. Tlie belief of the Ungarinyin and 
Wuirar tribes to the effect that the father always “ finds *' die cfuld 
in a dream or in waking life in association widi water, and diat spirit 
children were made in die wtgud^ or remote past of mythicat rimeSt 
and arc biouglit by the rainbow serpent, or wond{adj is of particular 
interest; as also is the belief that the latter's mate, wofu^fna, is causally 
connected with the rain, and with the increase of the human race, 
as well as with the increase of odier natural species- Here, too, die 
totem of die child is determined by the territory from wliich the child 
emanated, usually the father’s for in which it was " found 

The TVxfof of [Fesum AastraUa, 

Among the soudicrn tribes of Western Australia conoeptional 
toiemism and die belief in die existence of spirit-centres from which 
spirit diildrcn emanate and iindeigp incarnation in women is found 
widely distributed- With the exception of die definite belief in the 
reincarnation of children who have died young tlicrc is no evidence 
that the more general doctrine of leincamation exists among these tribes. 

Patrilineal totemism is most probably die rule among diese tribes. 

Among the more nor diem tribes of this region the child is regarded 
as the product of tlie plant or animal food partaken of by die mother, 
and ^ven to her by a particular individual, who generally stands in 
the rebdon of father’s brother, and occasionally, father's sister, to 
the husband of the amman of whom die diild will be bom. Such 
an individual may also cause the spirit of some animal which he has 
recendy killed to enter a particular woman. Hie child treats the 
individual who has thus acknowledged his rebtionship to him much 
as he does his mother's husband, but apart from this there is no well- 
defined or special relationship between tliem. 

Hie totem is not inherited in the paternal line but from tlie cbn into 
wliich die child is bom, but since these clans are strictly patrilineal, 
the father determines the totemic affiliation of the diijd. 

Among these tribes there is no belief in reincarnation. 

The Tribes of Southentf South-Eastern, and Eastern. Australia-^ 

Among die tribes of the extreme soudi (Larrekiya and neighbouring 
tribes) the consumption by a woman of any article of food ^ven to 
lier by a man is generally re^rded as die causative agent in tiie produc¬ 
tion of pregnancy and die birth of a child. 


The western tribes of South Australia believe in the esistence of 
spirit-abodes from which children emamre. Curiously enougli, 
however, children of dideient totems may originate from die same 
spin t-centrc. Tlie totem of the child is announced in a dream. 

In the north spirit children are associated with the rain (among the 
Nirtibalda) which entering tlie bodies of two supematuiaJ women, 
the Yammuiu, are bom young spirit blacks who undergo incarna¬ 
tion in die woman at whom diey liave diosen to dirow their iv^ddies. 

There is no evidence of a belief in reincarnation, Tfse available 
data indicates the existence of indirect parrilmeal toiemism. 

Among the south'^stem tribes the belief is general that die spirit 
child emanates from a spirit-c^entre and is direedy incarnated in a 
woman when she happens to pass by one of tliese. The spirit child 
is newly created, and there is no evidence of a belief in reincarnation. 
Patri lineal totemism is probably the rule. 

Among the tribes of the eastern part of Australia in the New South 
Wales territory, of whom very Little is known, spirit children are 
believed to be manufactuEed by supematumls who send them along 
to the women in whom they are incarnated and bom as children in 
due course, Tliere h a belief in the reincamatton of children who liavc 
died young, but there h no evidence of any more general extension 
of die belief in reincarnation, 

Widi this brief summary of the procreadve beliefs of the aborigines 
of Australia the preliminary part of this work has been brought to a 
conclusion, the chief purpose of which has been to present the classical 
and other authoritative accounts of these beliefs in order that the 
evidence might be judged for ourselves. From die evidence thus 
presented the condusicn is clear that in Australia practically umversally, 
wording to orthodox belief, pregnancy is regarded as causally 
unconnected wth tniercour^- We have seen something of the various 
ways in which pregnancy and childblrdi aie explained amongst 
die many different tribes considered, and now m the following 
and succeeding chapters the critical examinations which liave been 
made of some of tlus evidence and the various theories which have 
been elaborated in rebtion to it will be considered in some detail, 
pieparatory to our final analysis of die actual factors w^hich are 
instrumental in determining the character of the procreative bdiefe of 
the Australian aborigines* In the examinarion of the critical wTitings of 
other students of this subject the writer's endeavour will be to resolve 
all questions of fact, wlierever possible, by appeal to our authorities. 

2o8 procreative beliefs 

aiid also in tlte same manner, whenever possible, to answer all “ abjec¬ 
tions And, finally, it should be said here that the following discussion; 
is arranged in such a way as to lead culmtnatively to our final chapters, 
in which, as a consequence, we shall be able with some degree of greater 
clarity and undeistanding to consider the actual functioning of the 
bdie6 in whkh we are here imeiested, in relation to a single culture, 
namely that of the Amnta. 

Chapter X 


The anthropologist gets as near his priinidve nun as he can» far enough 
away.”—Avonsw Lanc. (Echiranl Clodd, Meminitif Lontlon, p. atijO 

J. G. Fiuzsh in the second part of hJs classical studies entitled 
Beginnings cf Religion and Totemiim Ammg the Atisttalhm Ahorigines * 
presented a brilliant and charly reasoned interpretation of the signiH* 
cance of the available data relating to totemism in Australia. He 
pointed out tliat the evidence suggests that group marriage and 
roaternal descent of the totem preceded the establishment of individual 
marriage and the paternal descent of die totem, and that group marriage 
had in rum been preceded by *' a still wider sexual communism 
whilst maternal descent bad likewise been preceded by “ an even older 
mode of transmitting the totem which still survives among the Arunta 
and Kaidsh that is, local toremism, in whidi the totem of die cliild 
is determined by the local origin of the spirit which has incarnated 
itself or undergone incarnation in die mother, “ without any regard 
to tile totem eitlier of the fadier or of die mother.'* * This form or 
manner of actpitting die totem Fiaxer regards probably the most 
primitive, *' For it t^ores altogether the intercourse of die sexes 
as the cause of odspring and, hu^er, ji ignores the tie of blood on 
the maternal as weQ as the paternal side, subsdruting for it a purely 
local bond, since the membets of a totem stock are merely those who 
gave the first sign of life in the womb at one or other of oertain definite 
spots," ® Local tetemism, according to Fra^r, with its implied 
ignorance of paternity oouid hardly have arisen from hereditary 
toteniism, but it is easy to see, argues Frazer, how the former could 
have given rise to the btter — a spirit of the fadier’s totem simply 

*■ J. G. Fratct, " The Beniuiing* of Bdi^oo lod Tounim imon^ ihc Atatnlim 

Abfjrigt^" TAd FifrtAigAify K.S.^ \a£cT UKOfpdr^itcd in ihe 

jrii HUiion of 7^ and ia ]f 9 —[till. 

■ Ibid,, 4^1, ■ Ibid, 

‘ Ibid., 4f * IbidL^ 




incamates hself in xht modifir, wherever she may be and however 
dbtant ftom the spirit child's totem centre- 

T7ie e:i(phdt denial thaE children are tlte fmi: of the commerce 
of the sexes is a piece of ignorance of natural causation which Frazer 
believes ** cannot but date from a past immeasumbly remote '\ 

In cxp1Ici:ation of this ignonince, Fraser conritmes, there is first the 
relarively considerable inierval which ebpses between iniercotiise 
cam ferrilizaiiofi and the first symptoms of pregnancy^ an inierval 
which is of sufheient duration to prevent the native from perceiving 
the conneciion between die two events. Secondly^ tliere is the unres¬ 
tricted sexual licence which is customary between individuals who liave 
not yet attained puberty^ and whose unions are necessarily sterile, 
conditions whtdi clearly cernmbute towards the belief that inter¬ 
course can iiave no essential connection with the birth of chUdren. 
Thc native is therefore driven to account for prc^iancy and cluldbinh 
in some other way* Nothing would seem more simple iliati that the 
spirit child lias entered the mother at the moment when she first 
felr it stirring within her w^omb, and it is not unnatural thatin her 
attempt to ascertain w'hai the thing is slie should fot upon some object 
dm happened to be near lier and that engaged lier attention at the 
crhjcal moment This would most likely be some animal or pbnt, 
or some food of which she had rece nt ly partaken * Hence^ die spirit 
of that animal^ plam, or object w'onld determine the ttaiure of the 
cb1d^ and eventually its totemic a^liaiion^ 

Tlie exogamy of the toiem slocks, and the tnsdtudoo of the dass 
^d section marriage regulaEions Frazer believes to be a reform 
introduced at a much later date than the totemic principle. Why this 
reform should liave been introduced Frazer acknowledges to be a 
matter beyond his power lo determine—probably, he suggests, some 
superstition which led to tlie belief iliat marriage between close relatives 
was injunoiis to die health may Jiave been responsible. 

Tliat the exogamy of die totem is a late reform would, to h ra^eTj 
appear certain from the fact that according to Spencer and Gillen 
die Arunta Alchera traditions make no reference whatever to die 
totemic regulaiion of marriage, and " such evidence as diere is poin^ 
towards the nortnal existence of marital relations between men and 
w'ojnen ot the same totem Thus, for example. In the Addlpa 
tradition The natives are quite clear on the point that in the case of 
all the originated by Numhakulla, men and women of the same 

^ * 7^ >j i-i 1- 

21 r 


KnonjaTf or totem, were arranged in pairs as mates, and married one 
anotherWe have already seen that among the Artinta of the 
present day the totem has nothing to do with the regulation of marriage, 
which is determined by moiety, section, and subs^on nilcsj and that 
the chaiacterisiic locaJ exogamy is reaUy the result of die regulation of 
marriage By relationship. 

In any event ic is difhcuk to see why that state in which marriage 
was not r^ulatcd by the totems, or before the “ introduction of the 
marriage classes constitutes evidence that at one time smjat com-^ 
munism and later, group martiage, musi have been the rule. Tliere is 
nothing in the myths and tmdidons rebting lo the totems and the 
marriage regubdons of the Aninta which w^ould suggest the necessity 
or even feasibiliry of such an hypothesis. These myths and traditions 
tender no otlicr assumption necessary than that die earliest form 
of marriage imiivtduaL In the passage just quoted in connection 
with the Achllpa tradition we saw that men and women of the same 
Knartja or totem, arranged in pairs as mates; and married one 
another. Never, in any of die traditions or myths, is there die sligluest 
indication of the former existence of either sexuaJ communJsm or of 
group marriage. 

Among odier Australian tribes, such, for example, as the Died - 
and die Workii^ whose traditions appear to indicate the former 
existence of a time when sexual unions were completely promiscuous, 
and whose explanation of die existence of die marriage rcgiiladons 
as being due to die desire of their ancestors to overcome the ill effects 
produced by the union of nearly reJated kin, might be considered 
strong evidence of die former existence of these conditions, it seems 
more likely, however, that these myths and explanations con¬ 
stitute the purest rationalizations. 

The existence among most Australian tribes of ceremonial 
promiscuity at certain celebrations during which individuals of the 
forbidden classes may have access to one another, aud of the normal 
custom of lending one^s wives to individuals wdthm tile privili^ed 
classes, die " marriages " of the pirraufau type of the Dieri, in which 
one individual is married to a group of individuals of the other 
sex, and, finally, the terms of the relaponslup sysiem in which an 
indlvidua] calls all women who may potentially have been his modier 
as well as his actual mother by die same term, and similarly with 

1 Jluid., iCf. also 71 iJid 

* J. D. ^ oOda^ JA* ATitmit Fnufw# ^ SobiA Amm&t, 1670, iqd. 

' H. 0, 


lespecc iQ the denoting the relationship of fatherhood, wife, 

etc., all these thin^ liavc been interpreted as evidence of the former 
existence both of promiscuity and of group mamage. 

It is impossible here to enter into a discussion of this matter, to which 
many volumes have in the past been devoted, and which in recent 
years has been most exhaustively discussed in the scliolarly works of 
Frazer,^ Thomas,® Rivers,® Westermarck,*’ and Briffauli,® not to 
mention others. It would cake a volume far larger than die present 
one to discuss this matter at all adequately, and to present the various 
arguments for and against the hypodtesU of sexual promiscuity and 
group marriage. It may, however, be noted here diat Frazer, Rivers, 
and Briflfbult are supporters of the b)'pothe3is, whilst Thomas and 
Westermarck are very definitely opposed to it- 

Wliatever the truth of the matter may be, it makes litde or no difference 
to our study of ihe procreative beliefs of the Australian aborigines, 
although the hypothesis of promiscuity and group marriage would 
perhaps make it easier for some to apprehend something of the ttature 
of the primitivE ignorance of the rcladotiship between intercourse 
and pregnancy. In view of the evidence, however, 1 am strongly 
inclined to the belief that sexual promiscuity and group marri^ were 
never more universal in Australia than they arc to-day, and dat 
individual marriage, as the Australian understands it, represents the 
truly primitive condition. 

It is here of interest to recall the remarks of an early exponent of die 
promiscuity and group^marriage hypothesis, namely A. W. Howitt, 
“ I doubt,” he writes, “ whether even under an ‘ undivided commune ’ 
there could have been anything more than a limited promiscuity, 
excepting when the whole community occasionally reunited. The 
general conditions of savage life on the Australian continent w'ould 
not permit an entire individual commune to remain united for any 
length of time in the same locality. The Dieri practice may show us, 
in a modified form, what might taJee place. The commune ‘ pirraurau * 
right exists, but it cannot be fully exercised excepting when the whole 
tribe assembles.” ® 

Frazer assumed or inferred a chronological sequence In the develop¬ 
ment or appearance of these conditions as, first, sexual communism 

^ Ttttvmim and £xegarr^t Loodcid, 4 vuIl 

* N. Wm Tbom^ KiruAip andGnti^ ^ Camliriclg?^ 

* (L EL EUv^s, and Saeial OrpitdiaturA, London^ 1914^ 

^ E, WcM«ni|ircl^ TAm liiwiafy Mianan LwIob, j volt 

*■ R, Tha LocwocIt r y vo^ 

* A. W. Hciwit^ AUAtt^liui Grourp Hc^Oehi,'^ JRfpatti, ^ 


or promiscuity ; seconds group marriage- and, third, individua] 

At diis point a strong protest must be entered against the use of the 
term ^'group-marriage”. The term is a complete misnomerj for it 
implies the actual marriage of groups of individuals to one another, 
whereas in tliose tribes in which it has been described^ most notably 
among the Dieri of south-east Australia^ it is in tedicy a ceremonial 
arrangement decided upon in council, of which the individuals con¬ 
cerned are by no means compelled or even eitpected to take ad\'antage* 
The decision of the elders in council merely makes known to everyone 
those who may and diose who may not by reason of class and kinship 
become pirmurau to one another. Such individuals always stand in die 
relationship of those who are Noa to one another, that is, who might, 
other things being equal, normally contract an individual marriage 
with one another. The pirra^rau arrangement merely gives a certain 
number of individuals rights of sexual access under certain conditions 
to a certain number of odiers, rights which, as Howitt has pointed 
out, cannot be fully estercised excepting when the whole tribe 
assemblesp'* But it should be obvious hete that neither the privilege 
nor the usufructuary right it bestows En any sense constitutes marriage- 

In view of these considerations it is somewhat difficult to under¬ 
stand how Briffauh arrived at the conclusion that Of actual' group- 
marriage* relations in the sense of tegular, recognijtedjand habitual 
sexual cohabitation, we have evidence only in the ^firraurau * and 
similar institutions. - ^ 

Recognised these relations certainly are, but regular, habitual ? 

Bridault has himself written that "A large proportion of the 
misconceptions and furile discussions regarding the extent of the actual 
relations between intermarriage classes in Australia arises from 
overlooking or ignoring the fact that, owing to imalteiable economic 
conditions, an Australian tribe is never a temtorial community 
forming a single group ; it is invariably fragmented into a number of 
* camps ' or very small communities- So that * class promiscuity * 
can never, in fact, be other than' ceremonialfor it cannot take pbee 
except at periodic gatherings of the whole tribe BriiEiult then 
proceeds to quote with compleic approval the statements of Howitt 
which we have already given above- How then, in riew of these facts, 
is it possible to speak of these group relations as regular and Ipbitual ? 
For it is precisely th^ tilings that these relations are not, unless by 
^ TAm MotA*rit 7^3. * Ibidj 


“regular” is to be understood “ periodic ”, and by ** Iiabirual ”, 
“ occasional.” 

it is very strange that whilst at the presen: day individual marriage 
and group relations co-exist side by side in Australia, the co-existence 
of these conditions in former times should have been implicitly denied 
by all students of the subject who, on the other hand, have, like Frazer, 
assumed or inferred a chronological sequence in their development or 
appearance- But for the reasons already stated it seems highly probable 
that individual promiscuity and group relations were fixim the earliest 
times co-exisicnt with the individual relationship. Tlus view would 
seem to me to be more consonant with the facts as they eixist at the 
present time tlian any other with which I am acquainted, and, moreover, 
possesses the advantage of being in perfect harmony with the myihs 
and traditions of the various Australian peoples relating to their early 

When, then, Frazer writes tliat it is “ practically certain that in 
Australia individual marriage has everywhere been preceded by 
group-mattiage, and that again by a still wider communism 
1 bcHcve this to be an Lnaccurate interpretation of the facts. In the first 
place, I cannot accept, and in this I agree with Thomas*^ and 
Malinowski,^ the term ” group-marriage Group-marriage does not 
and never has, as far as we can tell, existed in any Australian tribe. 
As 1 have said, socially sanctioned privileges of the kind involved in 
the relationship which passes by the name of group-marriage do not 
constitute marriage. The term “ sexual communism ” is as objection¬ 
able as the term " group-marriage ”, for diere is in reality, and it is 
mast probable tijat there never was in the past, nothing in the social 
organization of any Australian tribe whtdi merits description by 
the use of such a term. In point of fact it b doubtful whetiier sexual 
communism is ever practised in any Australian tribe, even upon 
ceremonial occasions. Upon ceremonial occasions cerernonial licence 
obtains; during the normal group relations between families, the 
actual husband of a woman may of his own volition, or in response 
to a request from an individual entitled to the privilege, Icrid her or 
permit access to her to anotlier man, but these tilings do not in any 
way minimize the importance of the fact that the woman is the posses¬ 
sion solely of her actual husband, and never in any sense the possession 
of anyone else after her marriage to him. Wiiilst her rclarions to 

^ FfffHet, Fortmg^y 413 ftr 

* loCr Cit, ! sB 

* Tht tAf 119 


her actusl husband are of a permanent nature, her relations to her 
social *' husbands ” and her partners upon ceremonial ontcasions are 
of the most transient nature. In the latter relationships there )s involved 
no question of a possession held or shared in common with the actual 
husband who, indeed, is the only and actual possessor of his wife. There 
is no communisni whatsoever in these extraneous relationships, since 
communism implies common ownership, and in these relationships 
there is no common right to enjoy a woman upon an equal basis with 
her husband; that basis is indeed very unequal. In any case, a socially 
sanctioned right to enjoy anytliing whatsoever does not give the 
enjoyer a right of property in the thing he enjoys; he may enjoy 
the thing but It remains the property of its owner. If a pirraurau 
" husband ” upon occasion feels that he has certain ownership rights 
in a particular woman of which he desires to take advantage, lie is 
far from feeling diat lie owns tliose rights in common witli her actual 
husband, for to her actual husband she is bound permanently, and to 
her pirraurau she is not bound at all, for she is not compelled to yield 
to his adt'anoes, nor, if she be willing, may iier actual husband permit 
her to do so. 

In brief, it should be quite clear that in all these relations there is 
no appearance whatsoever of communistn in sexual rebdons tidthin 
ilie pennitted degrees, and certainly none outside them. 

With respect to the ceremonial licence which prevails at certain 
times during the year when the whole tribe is assembled, perhaps 
a half dozen times during the year, the general promiscuity which 
occurs, except among those of near kin, bsis no more than about four 
hours at most upon each occasion. But here, too, sexual promiscuity 
is nor sexual communism. We must be careful here to make the proper 
distinction between our terms. In the literature dealing with the 
subject these terms have often been used quite interchangeably, the 
" hypothesis of sexual communism '* and the “ li 3 rpothesis of sexual 
promiscuity “ are pluascs which have frequently been used as equiva^ 
lent in meaning, as meaning one and the same thing. But even accord¬ 
ing to the lexical meaning of the terms they do not possess the same 
connotation, for communism means the common Iiolding or sharing 
of property, and promiscuity, indiscriminate or unrestricted mingling. 
As us^ in connection witli tile sexual customs of die Australians, 
communism and promiscuity have, in their strictest senses meant, 
respectively, the common ownership of sexual rights in a group of 
women by a group of men, and the indiscriminate (excepting 

2i6 critical theories relating to 

with respect to near kin) sexual Ucence attendant upon certain 

It does not appear to me to be justifiable to speak of such ceremonial 
licence as we have described as sexual communism, for so fleeting and 
irregular an experience cannot to the participants possess a meaning 
of greater extension than both the occasion and its infre<juency would 
suggest, namely that the licence was but a ritual practice in whiehj 
at such times, it was their duty as well as their privilege to partidpatep 
If this be so, then I think it is incorrect to speak of an impermanent 
occasional ceremonial practice, in which all the members of the tribe 
participate equally, by a terra which implies the existence of a per- 
nunent condition, and commufdsm is a term the chief meaning of which 
is that the common ownership be permament. If we use the term 
“ceremonial promiscuity** I believe we shall be more correctly 
describing the true conditions. 

The argument that the present day existence of ceremonial 
promiscuity is evidence of the former widespread existence of sexual 
communism preceding individua] and even group marriage would 
appear to be completely spedous. That sexual promiscuity was 
customary whenever the tribe assembled in earlier times is an mfexenoe 
which 1 believe the evidence warrants, but as has already been pointed 
out, such relations are improperly described when they are spoken 
of as ” communistic 

The fact is th^t the fundamental social arrangement in Australia 
is represented by cross-cousin mamage^ and it is easily seen how the 
so-called marriage classes came into being as a result of this arrange¬ 
ments Thus, where the four-class system is established an individual 
marries his immediate cross-cousin | where tliere is an eight-class 
system, as among the Arunta, he marries a cross-cousin once removed. 
A further result of this simple marriage rule is the division of die 
tribe into moieties and/or serai-moiedes. This, together with the 
marriage classes naturally follows upon the rule of cross-cousin 
marriage, and it may well be that these conditions represent the 
primitive ones as fu as Australia is concerned. It is, at any rate, 
quite impossible to go beyond or behind diese, for we have no evidence 
of the existence of earlier conditions anywhere in Australia^ ^ 

In the light of the above discussion, then, it becomes equally im¬ 
possible for us to accept Frazer's statement that group-marriage and 

^ Far A fiilldJsaaiiPn of nhae Uutten^K A. R. Raddlil^Bwviv ” TbcScidaJ Orj^onixiticiiii 
o[ AuKfali^ Tribeiyi" Otifanu, i, 


maternal descent of the totem preceded the establishitieiit of individual 
marriage and the paternal descent of the totem. Of the first matter we 
have already briefly disposed ^ of the second there is this to say, namely, 
that ilierc is nowhere in Australia a particle of evidence to show that 
maternal descent of the totem preceded pternal descent of the totem. 
In vieflf of the actual evidence such an assumption Is quite unwarranted,. 

In a recent study ^ D* S> Davidson has, I thjnk^ in spite of some 
faulty analyses, demonstrated that " there is nothing throughout 
the original social structure of the Austcallan local group system 
which would Indicate that matrilincal descent had ever been known. 
In fact, if we were to eliminate from Australia the moieties, classes, 
and totemic sibs, leaving just the local group organiaation, there 
would be no matrilineal organization on the continent. As a starting 
point in Australian history, therefore, we would have the local group 
system with patrilineal tendencies due to the very nature of a hunting 
occupation and its related organization 

In this passage Davidson refers to the fact that tliroughout Australia 
all land and hunting territorial rights of the local group are controlled 
by the male head of the family and are mheriicd In the male line. 

“ Tlie local group system," wTites Davidson, " is characterized by 
patrilineal tendencies. The local groups and their subdivisions, the 
family hunting territories, are patrilocal; when information is at all 
detailed it is often to he noticed tiiat they are also patronymic. Marriage 
generally takes place between certain reciprocating loc^ties. Land is 
inherited in the male line. There is nothing about the entire aboriginal 
organization which would Indicate for a minute that matrilineal 
institutions are present, ever had been known, or, left to their own 
resources to develop social progress and intensthcadon, ever w'ould 
become known.” ^ 

A similar conclusion is to be drawn from Professor Raddiffe^ 
Brown's very comprehensive study of the social organization of 
Australian tribes,* 

Professor RadcUfte-Brown has pointed out the error of crudely 
distinguishing betw'een the terms “patrilineal” and “matrilineal 
descentHe writes as follows: " It is common to speak of some 
Australian tribes as patrilineal and others as matrilineal. Tliis, to say 

^ s. Dai’idunr TAf Aipxti a/ AuUrdSan Sixmi Pcmin 

• Ihi<L^ ] • IbkLj 84-91, 

* A-K. RndcU^Biownp The Sodil Or^mizaiiocv &f AustraHMi Tiibei,** OnwiUp 1^30^ 

Na I, 34-&J i N*, it ; No. 4, ^u^34i, aflld «pccully in No. 4^ 

3 i8 critical theories relating to 

die least, is misleading. In the first place in every Australian tribe 
what is really the most important serial group, the horde, is patrilineal. 
But some tribes, in addition to these patrilineal groups, have a system 
of itiacrilitieal groups, wlvich ate necessarily not localricd and are 
usually, if not always, totemic.” ^ 

"So far as descent goes, therefore, we must divide Australian 
tribes into two groups, those in which there are only patrilineal 
descent groups, and those in which there are both patrilineal and 
matrilinea! descent groups.” ^ 

There is no evidence anywhere in Australia that patrilineal descent 
ever developed from or was preceded by matriiineal descent, bur such 
evidence as we liave just considered, namely the geographical dis¬ 
tribution of patrilineal and matriiineal descent together with the moiety 
system and tlie universal patrilineal or^izarion of the local group, 
renders it practically certain that patrilineal descent is fundamental— 
that, on the other liand, the fundamental primitive organization of the 
Australian family, horde, and tribe is paternal, and in essentials 
still remains so everywhere. 

In view of these considerations it seems extremely unlikely that 
matriiineal descent of the totem ever preceded patrilineal descent of 
the totem. Frazer, indeed, does not ^together deny the possibility, 
for he writes," Pmally, 1 have to point out that, if the present theory 
of the development of totemism is correct, tlie common assumption 
that inheritance of the totem through the mother always preceded 
inheritance of it through the father need not hold good. If the transi¬ 
tion from the concepdonal to the hereditary form of totemism was 
effected in the manner in which it seems to be actually taking place at 
present among the Central Australian tribes, it is dear that the change 
could be made just as readily to paternal as to maternal descent. For 
it would be quite as easy to suppose that a spirit of the husband's 
totem had entered into bis wife as that a spirit of her own totem had 
done so: the former supposition would give paternal descent of the 
totem, the latter w'ould give matemal descent.” * 

Frazer's statements that the Arunta belief “ ignores altogether the 
intercourse of the sexes as the cause of offspring; and further, it 
ignores the tie of blood on the matemal as w^U as the paternal side 
and that the tlieory " derives implicitly, and the natives tliemsclvcs 
deny explicidy, that children are die fruit of the commerce of the sexes. 

* **T}\c Social OTgadxaEjOO of AustraJian TTib«^“ Dwartu* 443,. 

* Ihld.f 444, * FifWg&ify /i™wp 4^ * Ib^p 4^3* 


So astounding an ignotance of natural causation cannot but date 
from a past immeasurcably remote immediately upon their appear¬ 
ance called forth the criticism of Andrew Lang,^ a criticism which 
he repeated and elaborated subsequently in many places. 

The tenor of Lang's objections may be gauged from his opening 
remarks. "Now when,” he writes, " the Arunta 'ignore the tie of 
blood on the maternal side *, they prove too much. They ignore that 
of which they are not ignorant. Not being idiots, they are welJ aware 
of die maternal tie of blood; but they do not permit it to affect the 
descent of die totem, which is regulated by their isolated superstition, 
the doctrine of reincamaiion combined with the churbiga nanja 
belief. Nor do they ignore fatherhood . . . in affairs of inheritance 
of local ofBce and totemic rites,” ® 

" But they (sb,” Lang continues, “ deny that die intercourse of the 
sexes is the cause of birth of children. Here the interesting point is that 
tribes much more primidve, the south-eastern tribes, with female 
reckoning of descent, inheritance in the female line, and no hereditary 
local moderaiorships, are perfectly well aware of all that the more 
advanced Arunta do not know. Yet they, quite as much as die Arunta, 
arc subject to the causes which, according to Mr. Frazer, produces 
die Arunta nescience of die facts of procreation. That nescience, says 
Mr. Frazer, ‘ may he explained easily enough from the habits and 
modes of thought of savage men.’ Thus, ‘ first, the sexual act precedes 
the first symptoms of pregnancy by a considerable internal.’ Je nea 
voitpas h rticessiiL Secondly,savage tribes ‘ allow unrestricted licence 
of intercourse between the sexes under puberty and thus familiarize 
him (the savage) * with sexual unions that are necessarily sterile; 
from wbidi he may not unnaturally conclude dial the intercourse 
of the sexes has nothing to do with the birth of offspring The 
savage, therefore, explains die arrival of children (at least the Arunta 
does) by die entrance of a discamatc ancestral spirit into the woman. 

"Tlie conspicuous and closing objection to this theory ts, that 
savages who are at least as familiar as the Arunta ivith (i) die alleged 
remoteness in time of the sexual act from the appearance of the first 
symptoms of pregnancy (among them such an act and the symptoms 
may be synchronous), and (i) with licence before puberty, are not in 
the Arunta state of ignorance. Tliey are under no illusions on these 
interesting points. 

" IbKL, 

^ Ar af TiOi&n, Landon^ xfof. 

^ [buL, 


** The tribes of social or^ni^tion much more primitive dwi dial 
of die Aruiita^ die south-eastern tribes, as a rule, know all about the 
matter* Mr. Howitt says, * these * {south-eastern) * aborigineSj even 
while counting descent—-that is, counting the class names—-through 
the mother, never for a moment feel any doiiht, according to my 
experience, that the children originate solely from the male parent, 
and only owe their infantine nurture to their mother.’ ^ Mr, Howitt 
also quotes * the remark made to me in several cases, that a woman is 
only a nurse who takes care of a man’s children for hi m 

Here, then, we have very low savages among whom the causes of 
sa^-age ignorance of procreation, as explained by Mn Frazer, are 
present, but who, far from being ignorant, take the line of Athene 
In the EumcniJes of jEschylus. I give Mr- Paley’s translation of the 
passage t — 

“ ^The parent of that which is called her child is not tealjy the 
mother of hy she is but the nurse of die newly conceived feetus* It is 
die male who is the author of its being, while she, as a stranger for a 
stranger (i.e-, no blood relation), preserves the voung plant* * * * ' 
EumenideSj 62S-63T. 

“ These south-eastern tribes, far more primitive dian the Arunta in 
their ceremonials, and in their social orgunizatloii, do not enter tain 
that dominant factor in Aruntadom, the belief in the perpema! reincar¬ 
nation of the souls of the mythical ancestors of the AMerutga. That 
belief is a philosophy far from primitive. As each child is, in Aninta 
opinion, a being who has existed from die beginning of things, 
he is not, he cannot be, a creature of man’s begetting. Sexual acts, 
say Messrs* Spencer and Gillen, only, at most * prepare ’ a woman 
for the reception of a child—who is as old as the world 1 If die 
Arunta were experimental philosophers, and locked a girl up in 
Danae^s tower, so that she was never * prepared ^ they would, perhaps, 
be surprised if she gave birdi to a child* 

However diat may be, the Arunta nescience about reproduction is 
not caused by the facts which, according to Mr* Frazer, are common 
to them with other savages. These facts produce no nescience among 
the more primirive tribes wirh female descent, simply because these 
primitive tribes do not share the far from primirivc Arunta philosophy 
of eternal reincarnation. If the Arunta deny the faa of procreation 
among the lower animals, that U because * die man and his totem are 

^ Jaurrml of tkd AmkrapblogUisl i SSi, f OJ- 

* Tjti TViAfir if Soia^E^t 



practically indisguishable *, as Mr. Frazer says. What is sauce for the 
goose is sauce for the gander. 

“ TTie proof of Arunta primtriveness, the only proof, has been 
titeir nescience of the facts of generation. But we have demonstrated 
tlwt, where Mr. Frsaer's alleged causes of that nescience are present, 
among the south-eastern tribes, they do not produce it; while among 
the Arunta, it is caused by tlieir system of philosophy, which the south¬ 
eastern tribes do not possess." ^ 

The burden of l^g's criticism is, of course, directed against 
Frazer’s notion that concepdonal totemism among the Arunta is an 
extremely primitive condition and that their nescience of the facts of 
procreation is a proof of pristine ignorance. Lang believes, on die 
contrary, that the procreative bcliels of the Arunta, their nescience of 
the facts of procreation, are the product of an elaborate philosophy 
which is a quite late development and far from primitive; one, 
moreover, which has superseded an earlier condition in which the 
bare facts were actually known. 

Lang is, of course, perfectly justified in arguing that the procreauve 
beliefs of the Arunta are the product of thetr " peculiar pliilosophy ", 
but it is quite another matter to imply, as 1 take him to do, that they 
must once have been aware of die facts, which this peculiar philosophy 
has now overlaid and made it necessary to deny. Whether the Arunta 
were ever aware of the facts it is quite impossible to say, and can be 
matter for speculation only. To us it seems more probable that the 
nescience and tlie dogma of which it is a part w-cie historically con¬ 
temporaneous in their development, and that neither the one nor the 
other need ever have stood in a relation of priority to the other. The 
fact is that everywhere in Australia, whatever the nature of tlie olHdal 
doctrine or dogma may be, whetlier the belief in reincarnation be 
present or not, the nescience of the facts of procreation is the rule. We 
now know Lang to be in error when he states that the " more 
primitive " soutb-eastem tribes, who do not share the alleged Arunta 
belief in reincarnation, are not characterized by a similar nescience; 
the fact is that, as Elkin has abundantly shown, these tribes are quite 
as ignorant of the facts of procreation as the Arunta are. Among 
tiiese tribes we have already seen that children are held to come into 
being in much the same way as they are among the Arunta, for example, 
by dreaming, by the consumption of" child-food ", by the entry of a 
spirit child into a w'oman from some definite spirit-centre, and by 

’ L«e. ciL, tsi-3. 


'' finding Neither die father nor the mother arc conceived to pby 
any generative role in tlie production and birth of a child*^ 

^'liat the meaning of the remark quoted by Lang from Howitt 
may be^ namely that even in tribes with matrilJncal descent of the 
totem die children are said to originate solely from the male parent 
it is impossible to determine with any degree of certainty ; but since 
we know that among diese tribes it is aU%^ys the social father who 
“ finds ” tlie child in a dream or a vision, die originate ” of Ho^=itt^s 
phrase may mean no more dian thatj because a pardcubr male " finds ” 
the duld diat child is therefore held to be closely associated with tliat 
male who will, of course, be its father, die father, however, does not 
** originate ” the child in our sense of the meaning of that process, 
for the child is purely of spirit origin, but it is he who is, in a way, 
responsible for the entry of the spirit child into tlie woman in virtue 
of his association with that woman in marriage, for a spirit child will 
not enter a woman who is unattached* At any rate, there exists not 
a particle of evidence is su pport of the idea that either one or the other 
parent among these tribes in any way engenders the being of the child 
which is, always, unequivocally conceived to be of spirit origin- 

The abundant welUdocumentcd evidence from every other part of 
Australia in which the belief in reincarnation is absent, likewise proves 
that the belief in physiological maternity and paternity h everywhere 
in Australia wanting. It must, therefore, I diint, be dear diat the 
Arunia nescience of the facts of procreation is not, as Lang believed, 
a unique " consequence and , * . corollary of the Aninta philosophy 
of reincarnation This became quite dear to Lang subsequently 
when he became acquainted wddi Roth^'s description of the conditions 
among the Tully River natives of north QueenslancI,® a people w'ho do 
not poss^ a belief in relncaniarion, and who befievc in die spiritual 
origin of men* In the very work, however, to which these remarks 
w-ere contributed, tt will be recalled that the belief in reincarnarioEk 
was stated to be absent, except in so far as it relates to diildren who die 
young and who may undergo reincarnation subsequently in tlieir 
first mother, it is made clear that the entry of a spirit child into a woman 
depends chiefly upon the will of the spirit itself, normally entering a 
woman only who already has a husb^d, who will, of course^ belts 

* S« Chapter Vll. 

* A. Ifnnducticin to K. 1. Pnrkcr*! TA^ EiioAlayi TnA^, L^ndeifv JAore- 

Etver, It ju WE hffVE already sacc, eiiremely WrJurilKx doctnoC of itificyruliaQ 

□dlls among the Amnia j in wiy cvem h w^uld make Istdc diilcncncc for Lanf^a pointp 

^ W. £- NwiA lo^ eiL, Winrr* ly. 



father. But it will be recalled that in Mrs. Parker*s account there W 3 s 
no statement made concerning physiological paternity^ although it was 
stated that in order to live a diild must have an earthly father, but this, 
clearly, in no generative sense whatsoever; it was, in fact, made clear 
that a child might have no earthly fetlier, and might be bom to a woman 
who w'as completely unattached, an event which is considered highly 
discreditable, for reasons into which we shall later enter* Whatever 
tlie conditions may have been among the Euahlayi physiological 
paternity Is not considered an essential of the parturitive process.^ 

In considering the Tully River beliefs Lang writes, “In most 
references to Dr- Roth which I have seen, the details of his discoveries 
were not fully discussed- I therefore discuss them ; they show that 
an animistic philosophy, differing in many points from that of the 
Arunta, colours and even causes the North Queensbnd denial of pro¬ 
creation. When North Queensland people say that the lonier animals 
liave no spirits or souls, and may be and are the result of pro¬ 
creation ; wher^, mankind, ha^'ing spirits, are not and cannot be 
procreated, but are made or created, then we have to confess cliat, 
in the case of mankind, the North Queensland psychology has clouded 
tlie Queensland physiology. The North Queensbnd tribes know the 
method of procreation of the lower animals. What they deny is that 
physical procreative processes can produce man, who has a soul, who 
is a living spirit. 

“ Dn Rodi says, * Animals and plants are not regirded as having 
any Koi —spirit or soul.' AJdiou^ sexual connection as a cause of 
conception is not recognized among the Tully River bbeks so far as 
they diemselves are concerned, it is admitted as true for all animals | 
indeed dus idea confirms iljem in their belief of superiority over the 
brute creation. Connection can make a brute; * to make a man's 
beyond its might,' as Bums says, for man is a living spirit- 

These passages prove, I hold, beyond possibility of doub^ diat the 
animistic or spiritual philosophy of these bbeks, anJ iwtJdng 
causes them to deny that sexual connection is the agency in die making 
of man. They have to invent other ways.^' * 

We may here, in the first place, ask what actually are we to infer 
the nature of tlie Tully River belief to be from the statement that 
sexual connecdon as a cause of concepdon is admitted as true for all 
animals.^ Do these Tully River nadves really know that sexual 
connection is a cause of pregnancy in animals as Rothes statement 

^ CC 19$^ * Aui^bn PmU tf-TfiR- S. 


suggests ? Somediiiig of tbe sort they have unquestionably said and 
belie^'e^ but what actually h their understanding of the connection ? 
A statement made by Roth in an earlier study of the natives in the 
Boulia district in north-west central Queensland may serve to convey 
some id^ of what these natives really understand about the mat ter* 
Roth states that the station managers had often assured him that only 
with great difficu lty could ihcir' boys' be made to understand^ if ever 
they did^ the object of spaying cattle 

This may merely mean that the natives are unaT^^ane of the tact that 
the gonads are the seat of die male generative element or it may mean, 
that they have no notion of any such thing as a male generative element 
either in men or in animals* That the latter is by far the most likely 
condition is rendered most highly probable from the only thorough¬ 
going account of the nauire of very similar conditions which have been 
described for the nortli-westem Melanesians of the Trobriand Islands*^ 
The social organization of the Trobriand Islanders is matrtlineally biased. 
They believe that the child is of the same blood as the motlier, ^though 
ft is conceived as entering her in the form of a spirit baby* The father 
of die child is regarded as having nothing wliaisoever to do wath its 
generation, he is simply its social fether, and bears no other rebtion- 
slup to the child* Pregnancy is caused by spirits who are the reincarna¬ 
tions of former members of die iribe* A virgin is regarded as being 
unable to conceive, she must first be opened up, since no spirit child 
will be cither willing or able to enter a closed woman* Since every 
child, both male and female, begins its sexual life at a very early age, 
the opening up will, of course, normally have been brought about long 
before the girl has reached a marriageable age* Tliis method is simply 
the most convenient one, any artificial means would, however, be 
quite as effective* After the opening up has once taken place, the sexes, 
it is believed, need never come together again in order for a child to be 
bom* Now, the Trobriand Islanders know that aniimls copulate, 
but they do not believe that the copulation is the cause of conception, 
or even a condition thereof ; copidarion among animals, as among men, 
merely serves die purpose of vaginal dilation, but a female will breed 
without die co-nDperadon of a male, once she has been opened up* 

Among the Trobrianders the hush pig is considered to be far inferior 

* W. £, Ecih, Mdtri£jlogt£![tI 5 ^iuu££ji a/Maag rA« 

Brisl>anic nod LDtidi^rtT 

* 0. TA* Smai Uft tj' T /^ry^jinj 1^19- 1 am, -sr ewirse, iwirc 

of the methodoliJgkaJ dai^ cf Citkig the sunong one people to expbiEl the jupine 

of ihaiK unni^ analbcr i in die d>OVE pWEgCff ii is iotcoded CO do no 

moie than U iOggCdl wmi mnnot^ at preseatt be pEoven. 


to the native domestic pJg, yet, a$ is the case in so many other 
Melanesian communities, tliey take no precautions to keep the domestic 
breed pure, but instead they castrate the domestic hogs, and allow the 
sows to wander withersoever they wdlL As one of Malinowski’s 
informants put it, '* From all male pigs we cut off the testes. They 
copulate not. Yet the females bring forth.'This, of course, as far as 
the Trobriander is concerned, constitutes a perfect argument in 
support of his belief that intercourse has no connecdon with 
pernancy and parturition. Since it is very unlikely that the act of 
copulation betw'een a domestic sow and a bush pig is often 
witnessed by the native, it is a matter of no difficulty for him to 
overlook tins contingency as at all a possibility, or even a matter of 

In an earlier study ^ Malinowski had quoted the remark of one of his 
informants concerning pigs, obtained early in the course of his field 
work. '* They copulate, copulate, presently the female will give birth.” 
Malinowski's comment was, " 'ITierefoie copulation appears to be 
the uWn (cause) of pregnancy,” In his later report on die same subject 
he writes, " This opinion, even in its qualified form, is incorrect. As a 
matter of fact, during my first visit to the Trobriands, after which the 
article was written, I never entered deeply into the matter of animal 
procreation. The concise native utterance quoted above, cannot, in the 
liglu of subsequent fuller information, be interpreted as implying any 
knowledge of how pigs really breed. As it stan^, it simply means that 
vaginal dilation is as necessary in an imals as in human beings. It also 
implies that, according to native tradition, animals are not subject in 
this, as in many otlier respects to the same causal relations as man. In 
man, spirits arc the cause of pregnancy: in animals—it just liappens. 
Again, while the Trobrianders ascribe all human ailments to sorcery, 
with animals disease is just disease. Men die because of very strong 
evil magic; animals—just die. But it would be quite incorrect to 
interpret diis as evidence that the natives know, in the case of animals, 
the natural cause of impregnation, disease, and death; wliile in man 
they obliteiate this knowledge by an animisde superstructure. The 
true summary of the native outlook is that they are so dnjeply interested 
in human afiiuis that they construct a special tradidon about all that is 
vital for man; while in what concerns animals, things are taken as they 

^ ibid.j 

* “ EJtkran: Tbe SpWt* of the Dead in the TrobniDd Jwrn. 


come^ without any attempt at explanation, and also without any insight 
into the real course of nature/’ ^ 

The difference between the Trobtianders and the Tully River 
natives is that whereas the former deny that there is any necessary 
relationship between intercourse and pregnancy in the lower animals, 
the latter affirm it- For Lang tliis affirmation constitutes something 
of the greatest consequence. Actually the affirmation is neither more 
nor less significant than the Trobrianders’ denial. Among the Tully 
River natives animals do not poss^ a Koi, or soul, such as man does, 
nor do they among the Trobriand Islanders posses a spirit or haioma. 
Among bodt peoples men possess spirits or souls, among both peoples 
animals do not; yet among the one intercourse among the lower 
animals Is affirmed as a cause of conception, whilst among the otlier 
people it is denied- Thus, with essentially similar " pliilosophics *' 
they have arrived at divergent conclusions as to the conditions obtain¬ 
ing among the lower animals. Among the Trobrianders connection 
cannot make a brute, nor can it among the Arunta or any other known 
Australian tribe with the exception of the Tully River blacks. Among 
the Arunta 'we liave already seen that animals come into being in 
precisely the same way as men do; to the Trobrianders the subject 
is of little interest, they take things in connection with animals, as 
Malino-ft-ski has said, just as they come, but diat intercourse has any¬ 
thing to do with conception either among men or animals they deny. 
Among the Tully River people connection does make a brute, though 
“ to make a man’s beyond its might 

In the case of the animals, according to Lang’s interpretation, there 
is nothing to prevent the Tully River natives from perceiving tlie 
connection between copulation and birth, whereas the spiritual 
philosophy which obtains for men precludes the possibility of such 
percipience. But there can have been nothing in this sense to prevent 
the Arunta, or the Trobrianders, from arriving at the same conclusion. 
It so Itappened that the particular inferences which they drew from 
the world about tliem eventually resulted in the conclusions of wluch 
so many of their beliefs and customs are the embodiment, and which 
were arrived at with the assistance of the imaginadon ntiber titan with 

‘ Tkt Stioial Lijt af Sat/Ofei, iSj-4. Ii-me ihn Itfatinovild has here invulved 

hiirndf lit fl QOfUjaclicdQii, fbr whilff cp. [hit OP4 InABid ^ wriK9i zkDi ji wicuild be iiHrcmcct to 
■asumr thitt mm obliKtwa my kjvnt-bdet ihjn he imy hive ef ih« of proaeaiMHi hy th^ 
ovadoEi of ui acKreklti^c wpcmructurtf ht pcoceedi on the o^kt id explain that they coiwruet 
t ipedal tradition abdul a1] that it vital for man. Is wol this what is meant by on ajlimiTtic 
eiipOTiriictkLpe ? 


that of ilie reason, conclusions amongst which is the belief that con¬ 
nection bears no relation to pregnancy. 

It is a vastly more difficult thing to observ^e or infer a connection 
between copuladcn and birth in animals than it is in human beings 
living together in more or less condnuous association. Since the 
evidence may well be interpreted as against the possibility that die 
ohserv'ation or inference Iiad ever been made amongst the Arunta for the 
human species, it is not very likely that it was ever made for any animal 
species. It must be remembered diat the only animal which the 
Australian has “ domesticated " is the dingo, the lialf-wiid dog which 
is to be found in every Australian camp in great numbers, for the rest 
there is not the sliglitest evidence that the Australian has ever attempted 
to domesricate any other animal. Certainly no one would claim that 
animals living in the wild would provide much of an opportunity for 
the study of tlie processes of repioducdon, moreover, the sexual 
behaviour of dogs under domesticated conditions is, as is well known, 
so erraric, and must of necessity be even more so under Austialtan 
camp conditions wliere there are generally a very large number of rhege 
dogs in a single camp,^ that from the pell-mell and irregularity of their 
behaviour it w'ould be utterly impossible to determine that sexual 
intercourse was tn any way connected with the birth of young. 

Among the lower animals there is not observable the scries of so- 
called CTTipkatk experiences w'hich Read - and others have claimed link, 
among the human species, intercourse to labour and birth, such, for 
example, as cessation of the menses, euphoria, morning sickness, the 
quickening, etc., for with the excepdon of die swelling of the mammary 
glands and of die abdomen, none of these phenomena can possibly 
be observed in animals. 

It seems to me probable, therefore, that unless the Tuily River belief 
represents a faint reverbemrion of such an extra-Australian influence as 
we suspected to have condjdoned the form of the procreative beliefs of 
the not far distant Cape York tribes who were considered in the 
preceding pages, chiefly the Koko-Ya’o and Wik-Monkan who, it wtU 
be recalled, Iield a beli^in the reladonship between the fatlier*s semen 
and the cliild, that die Tuily River belief represents no more than an 
adventitious lationaliaadon calculated to expldn the superiority of men 
over animals, for it is to be doubted whether the Tuily River nadves 

* R EaHcioWf Tkd “ The aniindt arc kepi both hy rcati And woman^ 

in a one &yum as mmy ai dogs Ijvuifs viih the htimaii 

irS Home and Aiitofi,, SiMva^ ut Ce/ural AuMifnEn, London^ 31-I, 

* C, Head^ " No Patcraiiy,** Jmnrw J&y. Anikinijfr. 1 54. 


can have arrived at an actual kjiowledgje of the relationship on purely 
empirical grounds. 

Upon such a view, then, it would hardly be necessary to assume, as 
Lang doeSf that these natives actually know that intercourse is 
necessary for reproduction to take place, and that in so tar as they 
themselves are concerned they invent another way for tlvis process. 
Tlie tnidi more probably is that the TuIIy River natives have no more 
idea of the nature of the connection between intercourse and repro¬ 
duction among the lower anim als than they have for themselves. 

At any rate, whatever the conditions may be among the TuUy River 
people, it is Ivardly Justifiable to attempt to equate them with the 
conditions prevailing among any other Australian people. W hat these 
natives actually believe we do not know, but even if we grant tliat tbey 
do know that physical connection is the cause of reproduction in 
animals, it by no means necessarily follows that they ever knew this to 
besimiWy true for themselves. TTie discovery ofthe conditions for tlie 
lower animals, if such a discovery was ever made, may have come long 
after the development of the spiritual beliefs, restricted as they are solely 
to mankind. Though animals may be taken for granted man never can 
t:iW himself or others so, I do not for a moment see tliat because these 
natives may know the “ facts ” for the lower animals that they must 
therefore either know or have known them as relating to tltemselves^ 
and that in connection with themselves finding tliem incompatible with 
their spiritual doctrine have, therefore, repressed them. 

Tile Tully River nescience of the facts of human procr^on is not a 
function of Tully River philosophy, it is that philosophy. There is no 
question of psychology obscuring physiology, unless tliese words be 
understood in die sense of ignorance obscuring knowledge, for the 
crude physiology simply does not exist, and there is consequently 
nothing to obscure or repress. Men are specially created, that is 
religious doctrine allcctively acquired and empirically confirmed; 
animals are animals, they breed and just reproduce, that is profane 
knowledge profanely acquired, and between die two beliefs there is no 
contradiction and no cause for obscurantism. 

If the Tully River philosophy is associated with a nescience of the 
facts of human procreation that association does not constitute a reason 
for assuming that that philosophy produced the nesdence, and nothing 
else. As a matter of fact, the one constant and invariable factor that 
we have everywhere in Australia is a nesdence of the facts of pro¬ 
creation, whereas an appreciable variability is to be found in die 



philosophies which arc associated with this nescience; diis being so, 
might it not be segued with even greater cogency, that such evidence 
constitutes fairly strong proof of the fact that the nescience preceded 
the development of the philosophies ? Such a claim is nor being mode 
here, but I do think that the opposite view is a much less vahd one to 
take, and that the truth probably is that the nescience and the philosophy 
were historically contemporaneous in development, and tliat the 
separation of the one from the other Is a device resorted to by tlie 
intellectual analyst for his own arbitrary purposes, but is one which 
in reality has no counterpart in tlie context in which these philosophies 

Since, in the present work we are concerned to determine what the 
Australians actually believe concerning the nature of human pro- 
creation, and also die manner in which their beliefs arc maintained, and 
not with the manner in which those beliefs may have come into 
existence, we may here profitably conclude this radier tedious dis¬ 
cussion of Lang’s views with die statement that as far as human pro¬ 
creation is concerned die North Queensland tribes would appear to be 
as unaware of the facts as the Arunta are, and that as far as a nimal 
procreation is concerned it is extremely doubtful whether they have 
any real understanding of die bare facts, or, rather, whether they know 
the bare facts at all. 

Lang’s diief point is that a knowledge of die relationship between 
intercourse and conception probably co-exists together with the 
orthodox beliefs, but that since the latter play so important a role tn 
Arunta life the material facts arc merely obscured by the more vitally 
important spirit beliefs. I cannot claim, in the course of my examination 
of Lang's arguments, to have ofrered any really serious objections to 
this viewpoint. As we have already seen, Rohetni, Wanier, and 
Thomson have independently arrived at a similar view concerning die 
manner in which the evidence is to be interpreted but, as I have pointed 
out, the evidence which these students have cited is far from conclusive, 
and until further material bearing upon this matter is forthcoming it 
will remain quite impossible to say whediet or nor the Australian 
nescience of the nature of procreation is as complete as it is generally 
believed to be. If we are to judge from the nature of die orthodox 
beliefs I think it is fairly evident that these render a know ledge of the 
facts quite superfluous, and, as I shall endeavour to show, there does 
not exist anything in die w'Orld of die Australian which would 
necessarily render die discovery of the relationship between 


uitercourse and pre^iancy either inescapable or inevitable. At any 
rate, it will be shown that this is not an unreasonable view to take. 

We may now' turn our attention to those students ofthesubject who 
are in sympathetic accord with some, at least, )f not with all of Lang’s 

Goldenweiser in a brilliant critique of Hartland’s Pritnidye 
Patermty,^ makes the statement tliat “ Ignorance of tlie physiology of 
conception no doubt once pervaded mankind ; but no proof is forth¬ 
coming that such was die case in a state of society at all comparable to 
dial found among primitive peoples we know.*' ^ Upon an earlier 
page Goldenweiser agrees tliat the proposition that at one time all 
mankind was ignorant of the true namre of conception " is indeed 
obvious and must be accepted even without hundreds of pages of 
evidence.” “ But the crucial question,” he goes on to say, " clearly is t 
Would the generalization apply to savages as we know diem, from 
ancient and modern descriptions ? No proof is offered that it would. 
Tlie evidence as to tribes now living ts very scanty indeed. Perhaps 
the Australian facts may be accepted, with some reservations, for in 
Central Australia, at least, as Andrew Lang and others have often 
argued, the bclieis in spiritual conception are clearly a late development 
supers^ng an earlier condition when, for all we know, tliere were no 
such beliefs.” * 

I think that it may at once be agreed that, to keep to a pardcular 
example, the beliefs of the Arunta, for instance, are " a late develop¬ 
ment superseding an earlier condition **, when they did not possess 
their present beliefs, ASTiat condition then, we may well ask, and what 
beliefs, if any, did this later development supersede ? A belief, possibly, 
in the causa] connection between intercourse and childbirth ? Let us, 
for the purpose of this discussion, assume that such a belief did precede 
the later eontrary development : Wliat then } We are still faced with 
the fact admitted by aU sides that at one time all mankind was ignorant 
of the true nature of conception. It therefore follows that the remote 
ancestors of the Arunta were at one time ignorant of the relationship. 
This does not, of course, necessarily mean that the Arunta as a particuar 
people need ever have been characterized by such a nescience. But 
if we pause here to consider the Australian evidence we are faced with 
the fact that practically everywhere in Australia there exists a nescience 
of the facts of procreation. Is ii at all credible that such a belief was at 

* A. GtMmvtiKtj review of Huniajd'l 

NXt Ip 

* Qa^ 

• Jhm. 


one time preceded by its contrary without leaving the slightest trace 
of its former existence ? 

In answer to this question it may be replied that it is not only 
credible but also, on the basis of what we know of the development 
and history of the beliefs of numerous other peoples, demonstrable that 
there are no limits to the modiiication w'hich beliefs may undergo in 
the course of social development. This is a truism. Moreover, it may 
w^cll be argued that in the Australian notion that intercourse serves 
as a preparer of the woman in antidpation of the entry of a spirit child 
into her we have evidence of a possible former belief in its single 
efficacy in producing diildhtrth. TTiis is^ of couree, a possihility, but 
clearly not a demonstrable one. It perhaps requires to be pointed out 
here that the knowledge that intercourse is the sole cause of pregnancy 
is quite a late achievement of die human mind. 

The large quantity of evidence now available to us from every part 
of the world, and from every time of which there is any record, renders 
it certain that amongst every people of whom we have any knowledge, 
w^herc an aw'^areness of die relationship between intercourse and child- 
birdi exists, that awfareness is unexceptiortally accompanied by beliefs 
and pracdoes whidi in die first place prove that intercourse is not 
regarded as the sole cause of childbirth, and in the second place would, 
at least, strongly suggest that this limited awareness was once preceded 
by a still more limited awareness, in which uitercourse played no 
part in the produaion of children* 1 do not propose to cite here more 
than a few examples of the enormous amount of evidence which is 
now available in support of tliis statement, much of which is to be found 
in the five volumes by Sidney Hartland,^ in Frazer's great work," 
and in the essays by Reitzenstein ® and Nieuwenhuis,* and still more 
in the numerous ethnological treatises which liave been pubHslied 
during this century* 

Tlic orthodox Uilief among the pre-Homeric Greeks appears to have 
been that diey were descended from the spirits incamate in oak-trees 
and rocks.^ Tlie same belief is referred to in the Old Testament in the 

* Cf* TA* Lfgmi pf F^itus and Pnmhivt 

' F. VD^ Hsc^ruMn, Der Kaus^diKUBalDJnEzihaitg zwiscboi GcsciMcditsVcribdir tiifvd 
Erapf;i4^ii ifl Gbube und Brauch tfaEiir>iicd KulpiivV^lkeTp j&AispJLjldip 644-^63 i 

Disi Ir dtn iVartiTv^Mi Berlin, 19313, 

* A. NkiiweiihLiii, ** Dw Amkhlen dcr primitivicn Volker ilber da? GcsetdedfitsLdbdl 

de$ /nir /. xrviiip 193:7^ 

* M. W. iSc WiDar+ jOr Gra^atntm mm ttfftmtiha spaitm kttmanomy Leyden, 15K3 c| 

JL t^ieUcr,, Pkil^lagui, i ; F. Ox Wctdcsj, GrutAttcA* Gtjninf^cn, 

L 777 Sdiymaai^ 0/tw^d, Li, iij sqq.; Ax B- Cbck, '*Oik and Eoct^*' 


p3$^e in which Jejremiali describes idolaters as saying to a stock, 
^*Thou art my father”; and to a stone, ^*Thou hast brought me 
fortli.” ^ The enlightened belief of Pan-Hellenic Greece is well 
illxistrated in the passage from TAe Eummidss of j-Eschylus, to which, 
as we have seen on an earlier page, Andrew Lang has already made 
reference. I give the passage here in what may be considered a more 
satisfactory version ;—- 

She who Is catied the mother of the child 

Is noi Its parent but the nurse of seed 

Impbnted in begetting. He that sows 

Is luthoi- of the ahoot, which she, if Heaven 

Prevent not;* beeps as in □ ga^en-ground 

In proof whtrtof (Apollo exclaims), to show ibai fatherhoad 

May be without modier, I ap|^ 

To P^las, cknghter of Olympian Zeus, 

In present wimess J«re. B^old a plant 
Noe ittoulded b the darkness of the womb. 

Yet nobler ikift all the scLong of Heaven's stock*" ^ 

ft was generally believed that men were supposed to have sprung 
up from the stones dropped by Deucalion and Pyrrha, whilst the men 
of >Egina believed themselves to be descended from ants*^ 

With respect to the beliefs of die Egyptians Diodorus Siculus 
reports that ” Tliey hold the father aJone to be the author of generation 
and tlie mother only to provide a nidus and nourishment for the 
ft3eius”.'* The afterbirth was regarded as the physical or spiritual 
double of the child*® 

For the Jews we have the belief in the asexual generation of Adam 
and Eve, and die belief expressed in the Talmud tliat “ there are three 
partners in every birth : God, father, and modier “ Remember, I 
beseech thee,” exclaims job, " that thou hast made me as the clay - 
and wik thou bring me into dust again ? Hast thou not poured me out 
as milk, and curdled me like cheese ? Thou hast clothed me w^idi skin 
and bones and sinews^ Tliou hast granted me life and fevour, and thy 
visitation hath preserved my spiriL" ^ 

Ihvifw^ E^i I ji J. 1 > Myn!^ " uni Andbropokif^ '* In dmAfojsclagX 

oAi/ iAm IBOS, ItDEneTi 7*^ u, im 6 j tM iS, 1 ^ 3 ; H.J. 

iif t^ndofij 

* ii, 47+ 

* TAf EtimwJvf En^i^lcd by Lc^ Cwpbd]^ The Wudd^i 


■ Myres^ toe. dt. 

* CL L NcecEhamt A Nuusfx ^ EmAty^kgyf C3inibrid^«, l?J 4 , 4?* 

^ L G. Frana-, TA# GAJm i6z, 

* Takimdlp KiMaJk^ joA, 

^ Job 4 , I^IL The ImgXuga boc U| of syo/ar^ mraphoivL 



According to Arabi^Ji belief as expressed in the Koran, God created 
die human species from earthy which was first turned into semen and 
then into a mLmtre of blood and semen. The beasts were created out 
of water,^ At the present day^ in Arabia, certain tribes like the Beni 
Sohkr regard themselves as descended from the sandstone rcNcks about 
Madain Saliiu- 

The connection between intercourse and childbirth was, of coui^j 
definitely recognized by the few peoples of ancient culture cited here, 
but die nature of their beliefs clearly point to the fact that con¬ 
nection was not very profoundly understood, Tlie same statement 
could be made concerning the beliefs of the Australian, the differences 
in the beliefs of the peoples of Antiquity and those of the Australians 
being chiefly a matter of degree^ and this is, of course, die important 
point, Tlie Australian does not regard intercourse as die cause of 
pregnancy^ whatever the mechanisni of die latter may be interpreted to 
be, on the contrary the peoples to whom 1 have referred did regard 
intercourse as the primary temporal cause of conception, although the 
character of their beliefs was such as to suggest that the concepdon 
of the supcrnaiural nature of pregnancy once the dominant one 
among the cultural ancestors of these peoples,® Of this there can be no 
proof, and this is Goldenweiser's point, with wtiJch I am in endre 
agreement, but there is, 1 think, in view of the evidence a strong 
presumption of the existence of such more primitive beliefs among 
these peoples—it b not intended to claim anytiung more than this. 

Among the reasons which have prevented many students from 
accepting the alleged nescience of die Australians concerning the 
nature of procreation, one of the chief of these has been the difficulty 
of conceiving of any people so naturally unobser\.'ant as to fail to 
recognize what would seem to be so impressively and inescapably 
evident as the relationship between intercourse and pregnancy» 

As we shall shortly liave ctccaston to see, this difficulty arises chiefly 
from certain pre-isxisting prejudices, entirely unselfconscious, which 
the various students of the subject have been unable to lesisr, and in 
this way liave been forced to pre-Judge what they w^re quite clearly 
in no condition to judges The analysis of their arguments, tlierefore, 
should not be altogether unilluminating^ 

The most cogent and at once the most representative discussion of 
die procreative beliefs of savages from this standpoint b that of die 

^ Kijkw, OTiii, E, jaiv, 44- 

* Douphiy^ TVtfw^ m Canibti<|g^p ISSS, I7. 

* H. J. Udscp Primubv CuliUFM in Gp»Kt^ LqixIcieIi j 


late Professor Carveth Read,* who, before hU death, was for many 
years Professor of Logic in the University of London, and an able 
contributor to the discussion of edmological problems. 

Read opens his discussion with the avowal that what natives say in 
Central Australia and in the TrobHands is not in question. But, he 
queries, what state of mind do such declarations on the part of the 
natives indicate } Are they actually unable to make the connection 
and draw the inference, or do they, perhaps not all of them, know die 
truth, and that the dogma contradicting such knowledge lias caused 
its repression and expulsion from consciousness ^ 

Essentially, it will be observed, this is the view earlier put forward 
by Lang. 

Read then proceeds to quote StreWow to the effect tliat the old men 
among the Aiunta knew that coliabitadon was to be considered as the 
cause of children, hut diai they say nothing about this to the younger 
men and w'Omen. The statement, from the same source. Is also quoted 
that both the Arunta and Loritja are aware of the relationship between 
copulation and olfsprii^ in the lower animals, and tliat even the 
children are enlightened upon that point. Since the first statement was 
afterwards corrected by Stiehlow himself, and the second statement 
alone reaffirmed by Stiehlow, we need concern ourselves with die 
btter only so far as to repeat what we have already said, namely, that in 
view of the aboriginal beliefs as reported by Spencer and Gillen to the 
effect that animals come into being in predsely the same way as men do, 
it is highly probable tliat these aboriginals were in this connection 
inffuenoed by white beliefs. Read concedes that Strehlow’s work may 
possibly be unsatisfactoty in certain respects, but he suggests that what 
Strehlow says is not inttinsically improbable. " The keeping of know¬ 
ledge by elders secret from the rest of the tribe is a very common thing i 
and if not only is the truth concealed but an untruth Inculcated, there 
is evidence enough that dogmas taught by elders or priests may be 
accepted in opposition to immediate and luuiustakable fact." ~ 

The last point, I think, is in a provisional way indisputable, every- 
group of elders or priesthood has its esoteric knowledge which tJiey 
keep from the multiuide, and every pious Catholic woman believes that 
her child k chiefly the result of an act of God ; the notion that it may 
be the result of the naaterial act of intercourse is of itself fell to be a 
painful perversion of the truth and a blasphemy. 

But nowhere here, nor in any other context with which I am 
i J. c.B«d.*• No PiEcmiCyr tot ctt. < Ibid, 147. 


acquainted, are tlie beliefs taught by die elders, priests, or dogmas for 
exoteric coTtsumprion, in opposition to ** innnediate and unmistakable 
face ”, for the relationship between intercourse and childbirth is 
nowbere in die world, neither now nor could it have been at any 
previous time, eitJier jnimcdiate or unmistakable. And this, after all, 
is the crucial and important point. If these facts are neither immediate 
nor unmistakable, then it is quite easy to see how other “ facts '* can 
take their place, or be superiniposed upon them, and this precisely is 
quite possibly what may have happened in the case of the Arunta in 
particular, and all other peoples possessing similar beliefs, in geneial. 
It is precisely this point which it is our task to render clear in the 
following pages. 

Tlic argument which has it that since there must have been a stage 
during which universal ignotance of the facts of procreation prevailed 
it is therefore possible that the Aninta may not have got beyond that 
stage. Read counters with the statement that the level of intelligence 
which could have entertained sucli a belief must have been consider¬ 
ably lower than that which die Arunta are known to possess. To 
borrow' a phrase from J-ang,yc n’en vob pas la nictsslU. We have seen 
something of die beliefs of the peoples of Antiquity in this connection, 
and as far as the procreative beliefs of the vulg;ar among ourselves are 
concerned these are in many cases, as Hartland and others have pointed 
out, quite as primitive as tliose of the Australians themselves. Read is, 
however, ready to admit diat “ a great deal of the knowledge of 
savages and even of civilized men, is not of the discriminated, relational, 
propositional, texture to which, under the influences of formal logic, 
we are apt to confine the name.” ^ 

TTie further argument that between events so far apart as intercourse 
and childbirth the relation cannot be observed, but must be inferred,— 
and the conditions are such as to make the inference a matter of 
difficulty,—Read replies that we are not here concerned merely w'tth 
a simple relation between intercourse and childbirth, but with a scries 
of emphatic experiences, namely : (i) intercourse, (1) from one to 
six weeks later, cessation of the menses, (3) at about four and a half 
months from intercourse, the quickening, (4) in another four and a 
half months, labour and birth. ” Nor is this all,” Read adds, “ for the 
series is fused together by furtlier impressive changes, the swelling of 
the breasts and of the aJjdomen, and by still other subjective, very 
variable phenomena, such as euphoria, nausea, sick fancies and longings. 

^ UxUL] ij[7. 


These experiences, each deeply impressive, are not far apart t to 
connect them needs no great reach of memory; events much farther 
apart—even many years apart-—are connected by savages/* ^ 

It will repay us here to examine tlicse so-called emphatic 
experiences" in some detail in the endeavour io discover to what 
extent, if any, there is any real connection between them, and in how 
far this may be recognized by the natives* 

Intercourse is among all people w^hatsoever regarded essentially as a 
picture, and among the Arunta, who are not exceptional in this respect, 
there is no evidence that it is invested widi any more meaning titan that. 
As an urge the libido must be satisfied, and once satisfied its immediate 
interest comes to an end, only to be reborn o^in in tlie form of a renewed 
desirej and so on in a \irtually endless cycle* One hunts, eats, drinks, 
has intercoiirse when one can and will, and sleeps- Of such is the stuff 
of life. As soon as one is able, as a young duld, one learns to indulge 
in intercourse—it is amusing, and tt is a pleasure. From such aciiviiies, 
o f course, o flspri ng never result. One has intercourse continually, and 
that is the beginning and die end of the matter. Chtldren do not have 
offspring because a spirit child will not normally enter an unmarried 
girl. It is the act of marriage in the sense of obtaining a social father for 
the child that makes it possible for a female, under normal circum¬ 
stances, to be entered by a spirit child* Of course, sometimes an 
unmarried female does give birth to a child, and since the child hais tio 
fiidicr it is regarded as a vety shameful thing to have borne a child 
under such circumstances, for it is not proper that a child should be 
bom which has no father* Thus, for example, ^falinow^sk^ relates that 
one of his early informants in dieTrobriands lived together with a girl 
to whom he to be married, but, unfortunately, she gave 

birth to a child, whereupon her lover abandoned her, for it is wrong 
for an unmarried g^l to give birth to a diild. The unfortunate girfs 
lover " was quite convincedwrites Malinowski, **diat she Iiad nevel^ 
liad any relations with any other boy, so, if any qiistlon of physio¬ 
logical fatherhood had tome into his mind, he would have accepted the 
child as his own, and married the mother* But, in accordance with 
the narive point of view, he simply did not inquire into the question 
of fatlierhoud; it was enough that there was pte-nuptial 

^ Ibid, 14^. 

procreative beliefs 237 

motherhood/* ^ Both in the Trobriand^ and in Australia in siich cases 
it is quite clear that someone who has mslwd to injure the woman's 
reputation has caused a spirit child to enter her. It may Itave been a 
member of her own iribcj or a medicine-man from anotlier tribe, 
or a mischievous spirit in an unkindly mood who was the responsible 
agent. It is, however, a very unforiunate and discreditable thing. 
Lest it be for a moment thought Uiac there is involved in this situation 
a recognition on the pmt of the natives of the physical necessity of 
a father, it may at once be said that what the natives mean, as 
Malinowski has pointed out for the Trobrianders, is that the father, 
in this connection, is the social fatlier only,—in fact, the word has no 
other meaning among these peoples. Before a woman can bear children 
she must marry, enter into a new family airangemcnt, and have a 
husband who w ill help her to educate the children- As Malinowski 
lias said, " The sociological role of the father is estahhshed and defined 
without any recognition of his physiological nature/'^ 

In any event, die phenomenon of a pregnant girl who lias not yet 
readied puberty is a relatively rare one in primitive commiiniiies. 
Since, as a rule, girls give birth to children only after they have been 
married, that b, ^ter dicy have attained to social puberty, it is evident 
then that diey must grow' up in the midst of sejcual experiences which 
they know 10 be perfectly unconnected with such a phenomenon as 
childbirth. In any case, rftey know perfectly well that children come 
in quite categorically different ways. In the experience of the child, 
then, there is absolutely no reason why Intercourse should be associated 
with cbildbirtb. 

Read, however, considers the sterile pre-pubettal and pre-nuptial 
sexual relations as quite unimportant, since, he asserts, the change of 
sexual life at puberty is deeply impressive and well known to sav'ages. 
It is difficult to follow Kead*s meaning here. Tlie important point 
£r that the narive grows up and develop during hb most impressible 
years In the most intimate association with an experience w'hich he 
looks upon merely as a pleasure, and which, for him, positively 
has no connection with childbirth, and is as unconnected in his own 
mind mxh sudi a phenomenon as is the fact that it is necessary 
to reach physiological martirity before one can conceive. Indeed, 
puberty is not regarded so much as a sooially maturative phenomenon 
as it b regarded as a socially maturative one. It is tite stage in die 
development of a girl at w'hicli among other things, she is taken 


over by, and goes to live permanendy witli, her husband. Puberty 
is in no wzy associated with either intercourse or parturition, or the 
ability to conceive, as it is for the mo^t pan erroneously associated by 
all but a handful of students living in the Western world tonday. 
There is, as W'e slvall see, no real reason why these tilings should be 

It has long been knowit that puberty is by no means necessarily 
coinrident with die development of the reproductive powers, that 
In the girl menstruation may long precede the more important function 
of ovulation, and that in die youth ejaculation may long precede the 
process of spermatogenesis. In spite of this knowledge it has been 
almost universally tacitly assumed diat puberty represents the physical 
sign of die ability to procreate. Tliene is reason to beUeve that this 
assumption, as recent researches liave tended to prove, is not in 
agreement with the facts. 

Tins brings us to the particular consideration of the general problem 
w'hich has perplexed so many snidents of primitive peoples, as well 
as those biologists to w^hose attention the matter has b«n brought. 
I refer here to the phenomenon presented by die extreme disparity 
in die fertility ^ of the unmarried and the married in the communities 
of the simpler peoples; that although amongst such peoples sexual 
intercourse is quite free and unrestrained before marriage, pregnancy, 
as we have seen, among dte unmarried females b a rebtlvdy rare 
occurrence- Tliis obsm^ation holds true for societies in whidi marriage 
takes place at or shonly after the onset of menstruation In the female 
as, for example, among the aborigines of Australia, as w^ell as for such 
societies in which marriage takes place some years afier die onset of 
the menarche, as, for example, among the Melanesians generally. 
Now, in those societies m which marriage takes place at or shortly 
after the establishment of the menarche, as in Australia, there is no 
difficulty in explaining the existing pre-marical infertility, since 
pre-pul4rial fecundity, or the physiological capacity to participate 
in reproduction, is, as I have already pointed out, normally non¬ 
existent, for without ovulation, which practically never occurs before 
puberty, there can be no fecundity and hence no fertility. The matter 
is, however, very different in those societies in which marriage does 

^ TlhC semis used in die fdiouing duomion have die Tfikiwiilg dduuie racaaiingl 
phyilolofflml cafiuity td JivTidipMe in KprodvuitkHL 
the Lck ef capadty to pvticipau in tepHidiJiition. 

Fmlu^^ fecundity expre»ed in pcrioimmce- 

nhsence dt rcftillty | aynDnycnoUi chiMJe^aH^ 

Af«wat;Ar, (he hm EnenscmiciQn period. 



not tiJte place until some years after the establishment of menarche, 
and it is because the situation Js so illuminating among such peoples 
for the vastly more complicated situation among die Australians, 
that we shall devote some space to a consideration of the problems 
among the foimer before returning to tlie Australians. 

In communities of the Melanesian type the post-pubertal adolescent 
girls indulge quite freely in sexual intercourse without, as a rule, 
becoming pregnant. Infertility, indeed, among the unmarried women 
is the rule and pregnancy the exception. It is to be observed that 
I speak of pregnancy and not of chiltlhirtkj this I do deliberately in order 
CO emphasize the fact that we are here dealing with a natural 
phenomenon which is quite uncomplicated by such extraneous 
tniluenccs of conscious human agency as abortive or abortifacient 
practices, which would render the devebpment of pregnancy abortive, 
and lIius, whilst pregnancy might, childbirth would nor, occur. We 
may also exclude the possibility of contraceptive practices here for, in 
the first place, among the peoples we are here considering there is a 
complete absence of knowledge concerning the role that coitus and 
its accompanying processes actually plays in procreation, so that 
there is no occasion for the use of contraceptive measures, and in the 
second place even if such practices were resorted to it can be conclu¬ 
sively shown that none of the measures which are coimnonly employed 
by the peoples of Oceania are capable of securing the end desir^.^ 
I do not wish to give die impression that abortive practices are alto¬ 
gether unknown, or that they are no: on occasion resorted to, indeed, 
such an impression would do violence to the facts, but what it is 
desirable to empliasrze Is tlmt pregnancy is of such rare occurrence 
among the unmarried women that whether or not effective abortive 
measures are resorted to when it does occur is a matter of relevance 
only in connection with childbirth and not with pregnancy. It is die 
rarity of pregnancy among the post-puhertal females that is our chief 
concern. This is a problem whicli has in recent years been given a 
deserved prominence as a result of the investigations of Professor 
Malinowski, who has stated the problem very clearly in his classic 
work. The Sexual Life of Savages^ tn the following W'ords :—- 

“ it is very remarkable to note that illegitimate children are 
rare. Tlie girls seem to remain sterile througliout their period of 
licence, which begins W'hen they are small children and continues until 

■nd Lemdonp 


they marry; when they ase married tliey conceive and breed, 
sometimes quite prolilicdly..., 1 was able to find roughly a dojsen 
illegitimate children recorded genealogically in the Trohriands, or 
about one per cent.. . . 

“ Thus we are faced mth the question: Why are there so few 
illegitimate children.^ On this subject 1 can only speak tentatively, 
and I feel that my information is perhaps not quite as full as it might 
have been, had I concentrated more attention upon it. One thing I can 
say widi complete confidence: no preventive means of any description 
arc known, nor the slightest idea of them entertained. This, of course, 
is quite natural. Since the procreative power of seminal fluid is not 
known, since it is considered not only innocuous but benefleient^ 
there is no reason why the nati ves should interfere wdili its free arrival 
into the parts which it is meant to lubricate. Indeed, any su^estlon 
of Neo-Malthusian appliances makes them shudder or laugli according 
to tlieir mood or temperament. They never practise coitus interruptus^ 
and still less have any notion about chemical or mechanical preventives. 

" But though I am quite certain on iliis point, I cannot speak with 
the same conviction about abortion, though probably it ts not practised 
to any lai^ extent.... 

" So the problem remains. Can tliere be,*' Malinowski asks in 
conclusion, ** any physiological law which makes conception less likely 
when women b^n their sexual life young, lead it indcfaiigably, and 
mix tlieir lovers freely ? ” ' 

It is one of the great merits of Malinowski that he has been able to 
recognize the essence of the problem and to state it so clearly : this, 
unfortunately, has not always been the case, the problem being 
frequently obscured by the manner in wdiich it has been stated. Thus, 
Rivers in his account of the Eddystone Islanders writes, ** Tlie very 
free relations existing before marriage might have been e.xpecied to lead 
to the birth of many children and to ihe existence of definite regulations 
for assigning such children to their proper place in society. Such births 
seemed, however, to be extremely rare, and in the whole of the 
pedigtH^es collected by us only one such case was given, and that many 
generations ago. We did not hear of any such birth either during our 
visit or in recent times; and so far as we know there was no one on this 
island who was the ctiiid of pre-morital intercourse. It was said that 
sucli binhs occurred, however, though no actual recent instances 
could be given-” “ 

i HimL, ' W, H, R, Rilw*, onj £iAiulogy, Lmdnn, ijilS, ?<* 



Rivers goes on to say that ** It is quite certain that births before 
marriage were very rare and trt'O causes were given to account for tliis, 
aboriion and a process resembling the other magico-religious rites of 
the island, called egero meaning ‘ barrenness *, which is believed to 
prevent conception 

Abortion was produced by mechanical means or by the process of 
rubbing a certain heated leaf on the belly, and then holding four leaves 
of another kind under the vulva, when the child, so it believed, 
would come out. 

Now, it is qrute clear Irom Rivers’s description of an^^fora rite, into 
which it is quite unnecessary to enter the details of here,^ that the rite is 
purely magical, and can have no actual ph3rsical effect upon the woman. 
The rite Is believed to be quite as efhcacious in producing sterility in 
the woman when it is performed upon her husband alone.® Rivers, to 
some extent, recognizes the magjc^ nature of the rite, but considers 
it quite possible that the concoctions used may be effective in producing 
some pathological condidon of the uterus to the woman. As an explana¬ 
tion of the condition of infertility among the unmarried women, apart 
from the married women, this will certainly not do. For it is 
obvious that a large number of the Eddystone Islanders must be 
fecund, and I think, too, diat it must be l^Iy evident that the rarity of 
births among die unmarried must, at least in part, be due to the fact 
that though there may have been much tnicroourse there have been 
relatively few pregnancies resulting from such intercourse. This is a 
possibility that does not seem to have occutred to Rivers. 

A very itluminadng account of conditions prevailing among the 
natives of Wogeo, one of the most northerly of the Schouten tlands 
in tile territory of New Guinea, has recently b«n published by Hogbin. 
Among the natives of this Island sexual life does not begin undl about 
the age of sixteen or seventeen years, or even later, but is then par¬ 
ticularly free. 

“ Single girls,” writes Hogbin, " do sometimes have children, but 
Illegitimacy is not nearly so common as one might have expected. 
Just why this Is so it is impossible to say. Professor Malinowski, it will 
be remembered, found the same situation in the Trobriands. 1 observed 
one fact that bears diiecdy upon the problem, namely that it is ex¬ 
tremely rare for women to have cliildren undl tliey are, 1 j!udge, more 
than 21 years of age, by which time most of them are safely married. 

I have noticed that even when a gir] is married direedy after her first 

1 tbii3.j77. ■ ifaid.t 77 ^ * [bEd, 7 S, 


menstruation, which does not regukriy take place until almost 
ceminly after the seventeenth year,^ it is most ttnusua] for her to have 
a child for several years. One Dap girl had a diild witlun about 
eighteen months of her first menstrtiadon—fortunately for iicrself she 
was married—and this was so unusual that she was described as a 
coco-nut putting forth a shoot before it had fallen from the parent tree. 
The comments on tills girl, in fact, brought the whole matter to my 
notice,” - 

Tlic account of this people renders it quite clear that when a girl 
Is married and be^ns continuous intercourse with her husband directly 
after the onset of the menarche she does not normally conceive until 
several years have elapsed. There can be no possible objection to a 
recently married woman giving birth to a child, but this is so unusual 
a phenomenon that it has given rise to a belief tliat it is not a normal 
thing for a young pubertal married woman to be able to bear children, 
and certainly not normal in an unmarried woman. In diis belief these 
natives show themselves far in advance of the Western world, for their 
belief reflects the possession of knowledge based upon observation 
which owing to a fortunate colligation of phenomena whidi does not 
exist among ourselves enabled them to arrive at a knowledge of facts 
which was not ascertained elsewhere in the world uniil 1919 when Crew 
described the phenamenon in mice. 

Since, then, it appears that between the onset of menstruation, at 
whatever age that may occur, and the conception and birth of the first 
child an interval of some years elapses despite frequent intercourse with 
mature males during that interval, the question arises as to what can 
be the explanation of this phenomenon, ^is apparent sterility f What, 
if any, can be its physical basis ? 

As a result of certain recent researches W'e are now in a position to be 
able 10 return a satisfactory answer to these questions. 

Let us commence with a lower mammal, the mouse. In an experiment 

^ Ho^in Bible i» cb«k ihis ige entmaK quiee sui&^Kfonly by a variety oi meapa. 
Tosopu IX may ihai icVcitbeal is nthfra Uica^c tbf onscl eipcdaUy 

the Efcpicji, but thti cicmonstnbLc is ittRt nunitrcbe gH(ner4iIy DCAit* Litei: nmong 
livlfijt in the mipicfl tbmn amai^ xhw U^'tng in wnler dirties: The TddeJy hcEd pppputE 
nccicri IEmcDiTvcL (H. Fd^linget, Stxwil£J/tofPnmIiiy£ London, ipaip iiK sqq^; 

C> Au MiDi **Pfew&lergic Sldility of AdoJcsccnUt"" Hmnan vliip j 

^ " Daa adnsEum dcr tL Striintr A/tiArepeii^ift 

111; fL Noiluiii, ip Bcrlinp 191 e); in cwwiciioni wiiii omec 

Mdanerinri peoples ihn invesHgiartiCfU Or Otlo Hccbc on thi; Nbpipi d NeV PoEtKnnli ate d 
interest. Hedie hmd AldonfE thij peopbt no pri who had Hot yet anived at ihe 
of ifvcnlc^n bad Mnyimated {" Untnrsudmngen ISbcr das War^iEtum 11^ die CeachlcdJIB^ 
icrriJe ba McktMlEchcn lUndcfTi,*" dl jD, AntArvpeiogiff,^tfl^r* 7). 

*' L Hogbhn^" Native Culnm of Wo^eo : IlEjpcHt nfFldkl fa New Guinea^" 



carried om on 100 female mice at the first oestrous, Crew found 
lint 20 per cent of the animals refused to mate, whilst of the remaining 
So per cent of madngs only 24 cases, or 30 per cent^ were followed by 
pregnancy. Later, however^ when the same mice were three to six 
mondis old, ilie terolity rario—^diat is, die percentage of pregnancies 
following matings—was not less than 80 to 90 per cent. “ It is seen, 
tliercfore,” remarks Crew, “ that diough pregnancy can occiir a: die 
time of die first c3estrous, it is relatively uncommon. Furthermore, of 
die 24 animals which became pregnant following first maiing and first 
oestrous, 7 of them died, wlulst 4 odiers ate their young soon 
after birth. In our experience it is not iincommori to find that die 
motlier which destroys her young is herself physically unfit to rear 
them, and that in a great majority of such cases the mother herself 
dies shortly afterw'ards* It is seen, then, that not only is pregnancy 
rehdvely rare after mating associated with first cEstrous, but it is also 
relatively dangerous.” * 

Professor C. A. Mills and his collaborator. Dr. Cordelia Ogle, 
ha%'e recently confirmed these findings by a number of ingenious 
experiments carried out under a variety of controlled conditions, 
cliiefly of temperature. Whatever the condidons it w'as found that the 
lag in sterility between menarche and concepdon, the sterility interval, 
was nevej absent. Moreover, it was found that whilst the length of the 
sterility interval may be increased by varying the temperature of the 
environment in which the animals live, it has, however, not so far been 
possible either to reduce or to eliminate in To summarize Mills and 
Ogle*5 very interesting results, it wm found that:—- 

0f /nvinvl Ijutag 

34-jldsym ^3-4 (kyi 

JJ-41 diyi diyt 

4 i-|Q ebys J day* 

Thus, it would seem clear that in the mouse die sterility interval 
existing between menarche and maturity is to be regarded as a natural 

Tlie next mammal for whom reliable informatjon Is a^^ilable is a 
catarrhine monkey, Macucus rAesia. In an important communication 
published in August, 1931,^ C. G. Hartman briefly reported liis 

* F* A- E, Crew, " Pubeny and Chf die xnd InEfirfudang]. CongPCH 

for Sex London^ lOlO, 

* C, A. Milts and C, “ Physiolngk Stmlify pf viii, 

* CL Gm Haftman^ On iIk Rctvive Sicriliiy of the AdalesceDi SaeKt, 

No. 19131. ^Sdi Auffuat^ 


observations on fifteen rhesus monkeys whose every menstrual cycle 
had been from its incepiion carefully observed. As a result of this study 
Hartman found that between the onset of the first menstruation and the 
first conception, despite frequent matings with mature males during 
the tnierv'ui, a period of about one year elapsed. In a monograph on die 
reproduction of the rhesus monkey published a year later Hartman 
makes ic quite clear that the failure to ovulate is ** the probable cause 
of the relative sterility of adolescent females'' duriitg this inter^'al, 
for he found “ a verj^ high incidence of non-o%ttlatory cycles in young 
animals In this communication Hartman suggested that such facts 
probably explained the conditions which so puzzled Malinowski in 
connection with the infertility of die Ttobriand girls. 

The only other mammal, with the exception of man, for whom a 
certain amount of reliable e\'ideiice U available with reference to the 
problem of adolescent stcriUty is fortunately a close illy of marij 
namely the chimpanTjee. 

In a cornmunicadon published in 1935, R* M. Yerkes reported die 
first recorded case of a second generation captive-bom chimpanzee 
whose first menstruation occurred on 10th July, 19333 when aht? was 
seven years and four months old.- She wTts caged with a mature male 
from May, 1933, onwards (that is from some two months before the 
onset of the first menstruation) and she became pregnant on 9th August, 
*934 (±5 days), at the age of eight j-ears and five mondis. Thus, the 
interval t^tw^een die first menstruation and her first conception, despite 
frequent intercourse during the interim with a mature male, lasted one 
year and one month. The sterile interval thus being not very signi¬ 
ficantly greater in duration that Hartman found for die rhesus monkey, 

Tmkelpugh has repotted a chimpanzee w'ho conceived only four 
months after the first menstruation appeared. Her age at the time of 
conception being approximately nine years.^ 

In the chimpanzee reported by Fox conception did not occur until 
two years after the onset of menstruation. In this case, however, a 
mature male was not continuously present during this intervals The 
approximate age of this animal at conception was seven and a half years 

^ C. G. HiutTTunp " tn ih* RepTwiuctaOD of flic Macacus (Pithccili} Rl!US 4 i%, 

widi ipecnJ refErDwe W M^siiuiiaiinin. uul PiERnancy^" ContriStiliarw^ No, I f 4, 

No. tfudiuiion of Washingtan, Au^ust^ igjl, i-ltf I j 

tion in Wamtn, Mtimort siil I-lal^kra^ 150^- 

* R. NL " A StoCrfbl'^eaeratiaa CopciPt-bara OiimpaaiE^" Sekne*, boaJr mh 


^ O. L. Tinlcdimi^p Set Cydci 2nd otber Cydic PhcWMMfW m JI ChiiqipaiHiiE during 
MAturftyp md Pwannacyp*' /nu-ruf 

* H. Feu^ " The SitlSl of evo Atuliiippoid Apes^"' /owjW Mtfjwnafi^p Kp 1^2^ Jl. 



In the chimpanzee reported by Schultz and Synder conception did 
no: occur uniil one year and one month after die onset of menstruadon, 
although a mature male was present during the whole of this period. 
It is to be noied^ however, that he did not attempt intercourse with 
diis amma], o^^g to the presence of another and more recently 
introduced animal^ until she had passed Iter seventh menstrual cycle, 
or approximately eight months after her first menstruation A 

In the chimpanzee reported by Wyatt and Vevers menstruation 
regularly occurred for some three years before a mature male was 
admitted to her society, when conception foUowed almost immediately 
after the establishment of sexual relations. The age of diis animal at 
conception was esitmated to be about ten years.^ 

These live records for die chimpanzee are obviously of great interest i 
three of these cases prove the existence of a sterility interval in this 
animal whilst the tv/o others, though expeiimenially unsatisfactory^ 
support its existence in this particular animal, showing that w^hen a 
sufficient length of time has elapsed following the first menstruation 
die animal is capable of conceiving promptly when put together with 
a mature male—condidcns parallelif^ those existing among ourselves, 
where marriage and edeedve intercourse does not take place until a 
considerable interval after menarche when the promptitude widi which 
conception generally follows intercourse altogether obscures the fact 
of the possible existence of an adolescent sterility intertill in human 

The evidence for die mammals thus far invesrigated indicates the 
existence in the adolescent organism of conditions which prevent the 
Immature animal from undergoing an experience which it is not yet 
viably equipped to undertake. As Crew has pointed out in connection 
with the mouse, "'not only is pregnancy rebtively rare after mating 
associated with the first oestrous, but it is also relatively dangerous,” 
Tliere is every reason to believe that similar con di dons normally exist 
in the human adolescent, and that Crew's remark applies with equal 
force to human beings as to mice. For example, in the United States — 
and these conditions are everywhere tlie same—die maternal and infant 
death rates are highest when the mother is below fifteen years of age 
than at any other period. When the mother is between ij and 20 
maternal and infant mortality is higher than w'hen the mother is between 

^ A, H, Schulct tind F. F. " Obscrvaiuiiu <m RcproctnKnon in the 

Bul/ttifi /Mn HopAsfu tvii, 1 

■ J. M. Wjqni and G, nL Vo-'en, Chfl the ^nh of a CMmfHnzce Bdm in the 

Soci^'ft GaidaiJ,'" Landon^ 


20 and 29'. Maternal mortality is lowest between 20 and 24 (5 per 1,000 
live births), next lowest between 2f and 29, rising rapidly after 30 
by five-year groups from 7*410 10-3 to 13-1 to I9'i at 4^ years. 

Infant mortality is at its highest in the years below iS with a 
death rate of 160 per 1,000 infkiis; between iS and 19 it is 129,between 
20 and 24 it is t09<f, between 2; and 29 it is 101-4, between 30 and 
34 it is 104-7. At 40 years the rate once more^climbs to 129,*^ 

These figures abundantly testify to the relatively great danger to 
the mother and her ofi^pring when conception takes pbee within the 
first three or four years following raenarche, as compared with any 
other period. The lull growth of the human female is not attained until 
23 ±iyears, and it is from this period until theageof 19 that the optimum 
conditions for reproduction exist, approximately from between ten and 
fifteen years after the onset of menarche, taking the latter to occur at 
13 d: a years. Above and below this age infant and maternal mortality 
constantly increases, but it is never so high as in the adolescent female 
below the age of 18 years. 

It would seem fairly dear, then, that the adolescent female is not 
naturally viably prepared to undertake and to bring to a suoc^ful 
conclusion the process of reproduction. 

Among ourselves the belief that at puberty a arrives at the 
capacity to bear ditldren Is, of coxirsc, a notion bequeathed to us from 
past generations. We have ourselves had no opportunity of checking 
the truth of this belief for tliere has never been the slightest reason to 
doubt its truth. In the same case were all the generations which pre¬ 
ceded us. Since girls arrived at mcnardic some years before they 
married, and since they generally conceived at variably different 
intervals after marriage, this fitted in perfectly with the accepted 
menamhe-fecundity relationship. Moreover, for the last hundred 
years the child-mothers " of the East and of primitive peoples who 
have been described and photographed by so many travellers have, of 
course, abundantly testified to the truth of a belief which no one has 
ever dreamed of questioning. We have all seen photographs of tliese 
“ diild-mothers ” bearing in their arms children almost as large as 
themselves, and their condition has frequently been described, most 
recently in Mrs. Katherine Mayo's book Mother India^ in which, it wrill 
be recalled, Mrs Mayo statics that “ The Indian girt, in common 
practice, looks for motherhood nine months after reaching puberty, or 

1 Cimnti FaMf* in Irtfkitf Pub. i4i^ Mettrmt/ Pitb. tfS 

1916.^ of ibfi U.S. Ctejurenent of tiboUr. 


anywhere ben^'cen the ages of 14 and 8. The latter age is 
extreme, though in some sections not exceptional; the former is well 
above the average 

The facts with which Mrs. Mayo does not seem to have 
concerned herself are that cohabitation begins at “ puberty ” 
or, more correctly, menarche, and that in the great majority of cases 
the first child is bom in the third year of efleciive marriiige.® 
Furthermore, the average age of menarche in the Indian girl is 
I4'2i ±i-(S6 years. These figures would give us an approximate 
age at first delivery^ of sixteen years and some months. Pillay gives 
the age of the mother at the birth of the first child as between 14 and 
I j years,* whilst according to A, H. Chtrlt's statement of the figures 
obtained from the Maternity Hospital at Seva Sada in Amednagar, in 
which Presidency early marriage is more prevalent than tn any other 
part of India, the average agp of the mother at first delivery is 18*3 
years. In Bombay the age is 18-7 years, and in Madras 19*4 years.® 

Tlie imaginative order of Mrs. Mayo’s observations is, I cliinh, 
fairly clear. Tlie fact is that white obsoveis almost invariably under¬ 
estimate by years the ages of native cliildren who, owing to under¬ 
nourishment and a variety of other factors appear to be so much less 
developed than our own children at similar ages. Professor C, A. Mills 
tells me that during his widely extended investigations among native 
peoples in various parts of the world it was invariably his experience 
that when he was able to check his own estimate of the age of an 
adolescent or a child by some official birth record, he always found his 
own estimate to be too low.® Such a fact would account for the lowness 
of the age at first menstruation, etc., which, In the absence of reliable 
records, white observers have generally given for primitive peoples as 
well as more advanced peoples for whom records were not available. 
Actually It is extremely doubtful whether there exists any people among 
whom the mean age at menarche is less tlian 13 years. 

It is, of course, perfectly well known that some ^rls in India, as 
everywhere else in the w'orld, are capable of bearing children at a 
ckronolagtc age of less than 13 years, but there can be very little doubt 

^ ¥L LoehIcK] othI Ncfw Yoric, 1937^ 

■ /ft£an RtpQrt 19^1+ Appcndis^ VlL 

* Ctirfd* “ Tlic Rc^ruxlLlctive Life of Indw Women," vf 

Calanci, fOMj, viii, ^66-^71. 

* A. P- FiiUy, Mirriige and Divmm in tndiili^ jPrttfrtdErg'j 3rdl Sffufll Refomi Congrest 

London, _ . _ . . ... 

* A. fL Clvt, Li India Dylug ^ A E«pty to ilfa/Adr the Aifanne Afwttklyf otli, 

I93A, i 7 i- 9 t 

* Persoiul cammiuucatioru 


that the piysiol^gk age, that is to say tlie actual devdopraenta] status 
of such girls as measured against chronologic rimej is commensurate 
with that of ihe chronologically older normal girls. Arhitrary chrono¬ 
logic standards of age do not here concern us. 

Omng to the feet that exact records of such matters are not kept 
by the peoples themselves it is virtually impossible to obtain teliahle 
data from primitive peoples in this connecrion* Conclusive data on 
adolescent sterility in the human species is, for obvious reasons^ 
didicult to obtainj yet such evident^ as is available speaks strongly 
for the existence of such a period in mos t adolescent human females. 

As fer as I am aware^ the first investigator to collect and to report 
upon such data was A.-T* Mondierc, a physician and anthropologist 
whOj during the latter part of the last century, spent some six years 
working among the mliabitants of Cochin Chinas His results we^ 
reported in a study published in j 880^^ and later summarized in a short 
article.^ It "was from this latter work that Hartman quoted Mondi&re’^s 
hgures in his 1931 communication to Scimc€, I quote Mondi^e^s 
findings from the earlier communication which is somewhat more 
detailed than the later article. The following table gives Mondiere*s 
findings in an easily understood form* 


Afi^ 4g* ai 

Nt^^Td4r wii4 1 




fhjFt Child 

of First Chiid 

Yrr. MthiL 



IS 4 




i l<l6 

]6 6 



1 s 

iC 191 




[ ^ 

]5 10 




Vr^ Mlhs, 

5 4 

t 6 

5 » 

4 to 

* 'Jha olcultfuon of liia iierilTty fjxtm mcnareht — JOfliondu from 

portimtioii) list boQi ■dded ty ^ prefiCfif ffrilcr. 

Mondidre noted the variation in the duration of the menarchc- 
parturiiion interval in his four groups and remarked that since the 
climatic conditions w'cre the same for all these peoples the difference 
in the interiiTils must be attributed to racial differences or, perhaps 
a^ we would toniay say, genetic differences^ The great duration 
of the sterihty interval in the Cambodian women Mondi&re attributes 
to the feet that among this people the husband is, as a rule, more 
than twenty years older ilian his wife, an explanation that may not 
be without some virtue, though it is of doubtful value^ 1 propose here 
to do no more than suggest that taken as they stand Mondi^re^s 

k ^ h F«Eim4 b CodOfldiiDc;* Si^hu Jt ta 

Soeiiii ijs, lUo, 

" Nubllrlf/* eb 



findings indicate that among the peoples of Cochin Cliina mveshgaied 
by him a period of adolescent sterility normally exists. 

Professor |. Preston Maxwell, Professor of Obstetrics and 
Gyiuecology at Peiping Union Medical College, China, has been 
good enough to send me his unpublished data collected some thirty 
years ago on iOj Chinese women from Yung Chun in South Fukien ; 
these data relate to menarche, marriage, and first delivery. Professor 
Maxwell found that there is a mean interval of three and one half 
years betw'eeti marriage and the birth of tlie first cliild. His findings, 
as supplied to me, on analysis yield the following distribution for the 
duration between marriage and the birth of the first child:— 

- 4 - + + + + + + ++ + 

Pef flail 

These figures are striking. In only two out of 103 cases were children 
bom to women within the first year of marriage, the vast majority 
of children being bom considerably after marriage. Of these 103 
women thirty-one married before the onset of menarche, but in no 
case did any of these w^omen bear children until after the establish¬ 
ment of menarche. The important figures arc yielded by an analysis 
of the distribution of the intervals between mmarche, and first delivery 
or birth of the first child. The figures are as follows:— 

l yr, t yt, i ym. j jtb, 4 yra, ( yn. 
(*) (tl) (J7> tS) (^5 

t'9 ii-fi iS-i iS-f 7-5 

6 yti, 7 yra. S via. fl yrt, it via. Pra/taticir 
(t) Cti W (I) (») 

7'9 4-> 4'S i-y D-9 I}*., 

Per cent 

— + ++ + + + + H- 4* 

I yr* ly^H lyrs, s ytt, 6 yn. 7 yf%. $ yn. o m. 

C 3 ) C17) (lO (7) CS) (j> 6 ) (4} 

5+0 6-0 17-0 11-0 l^-d 7-Q S-o j-a 3-0 

4 <^ 




Tliese figures show th^t only in a very small percentage of cases is 
menarche followed by pregnancy within the first year, and that an 
interval between two and three years generally cbpses following 
menarche before the first child is bom. It is also to be noted that in 
twenty-seven per cent of cases birth took place five or more years 
after menarche, and that in twenty per cent of cases no birth had taken 
place at the time of the record in spite of the faa that many of these 
women had been married for a considerable rime. 

It may be mentioned here that Professor Maxw'ell has informed me 
that at the time when these observations were made " pre-marital 
intercourse was almost unknown and tliere was no suclj thing as 

Chau and Wright in a report of an investigation on 1,191 Chinese 
women living in sub-tropical Canton (N. Lat, 23* 7' to") and 

^ LcEto: Id the amiiof dated Jjlii JiiWt 


surroundirig districts, state that the mean age at menarche was i4'f 
years, the mean age at marriage (683 cases) 17 6 years, and the mean 
age (596 cases) at the birth of the first child 30 '^ years—which sugg^ts 
a sterility interval of six years. Only one girl hecame a mother at 
the age of 13 years, five at the age of 15, and twelve at the age of (6.^ 
No filrther details bearing upon these matters are supplied. 

Without entering here upon a discussion of the very wide implica¬ 
tions of such facts, it seems probable that in thehiunan female, and in the 
mammals, which have thus fer been studied, varying according to 
race, etc., there is generally an interval of anything up to five years or 
more between menaiche and the ability to procreate, during whkh 
the female is funcdonally sterile and unable to reproduce. This sterile 
interval has been shown by Hartman to be due, in the monkey at 
CO the non-ovulatory character of the adolescent menstrual cycle. 
And as Hartman has pointed out puberty, wliich is signalized by the 
onset of the first menstruarion, merely marks the “ early manifestation 
of a train of events {adolescence) which only after three or four years 
on the average lead to ovulation and conception, the proof of 

It is such facts as these, as Hartman has also su^ested, which may 
possibly explain the infertility of the unmarried women in primitive 
sodeties; and there is, of course, not the slightest reason to doubt 
that these facts hold as good for the Australian as for any other people. 

As we have already seen the evidence derived from laboratory 
experiments with mice, macaques, and chimpanzees W'ould conclusively 
point to die fact diat the adolescent sterility interval vs a perfectly 
natural and normal phenomenon. In man, very possibly, social factors 
exert a modifying influence upon it. 

It seems, then, very unlikely that puberty could be phy'siolo^cally 
associated with parturition by the Australians, and Read’s argument, 
tlierefore, that the deeply impressive clvange of sexual life at puberty is 
well knowm to the savjges wi 11 not, u pon such grounds, bear examination. 

If it is Read’s meaning that upon marriage, that is, at or shortly 
after puberty, the girl is removed from a loosely characteriaed sexual 
life and placed in a situation where the sexual ordinate is of a more 
constant character, the nature of which renders it a fairly simple 
matter to educe the necessaty relation between intercourse and 
pregnancy, tiiere is this to say in respect of it; In the first place the girl 
K~. jirvri J. M Wdgfci, CjTWCclogSai NotEi ^ QiniOA CA™ 

/earful, AllguU, 

* C. G. itetnufl, August, Idc; tiL, 


will not normally conceive for a considerable period of rime following 
her marriage, and ibis tn spite of constant and fairly ix^nsistent inter¬ 
course with the same individual, and at the same time there are bound 
to be certain deviate cases from the mode, that is women who will 
conceive both earlier and later. In short, there will be a great deal of 
variation in the duration of the intervals between puberty—marriage 
and pregnancy or childbirth, and since the Australians, with all their 
accomplishments, are not biometridans clearly this irregularity in the 
marriage-parturition interval is something which is hardly calculated 
to provide that serial history of correlates from which the proper 
inference could be drarrii. Further, there are always a certain number 
of sterile women in the tribe who although given to frequent inter¬ 
course with tlieir husbands never bear children. Then there are the 
“ old ** women who, after a rime, cease to bear children, although they 
continue to have intercourse as frequently as ever. These are facts 
which may be observed without difficulty and which are incontestable. 

In explanation of the sterility in the young w'Omen the Arunta say 
that the condition is brought about by the fact that in her youth tlie 
girl tied a man^s hair waistband about her, which owing to its great 
power had the effect of cramping her internal organs and dtus rendered 
them incapable of the necessary expansion in order to accommodate 
a spirit child The reason, it is maintained, why old women fail to 
have children Is because they are so ugly, and spirit children have a 
very definite predilection for comely women.® 

Among the Trobrianders there are certain women who are so ugly 
that no man, it is declared, has ever bad or ever would have intercourse 
with them, yet these very women have given birth to children^— 
a clinching proof of the fact that intercourse has nothing whatsoever 
to do with childbirth. 

In view of all these foct$ it is, 1 thifikj really demanding too much 
of the human mind, however natively powerful, to expect it to draw 
an inference frorri premises which are so conspicuously lacking. The 
effects of intercoms after the attainment of puberty ” (menarche) 
and marriage will generally be of such a mixed character, ajid 
experienually so clearly unrelated to pregnancy, not to say child¬ 
birth, that it would be nothing short of a mtrack were die Australian 
to discriminate, in die face of his deeply felt beliefs and of his own 
experience, in favour of coitus and pregnancy, made possible by 

^ Th 

* TAt Stxual Lifi of S<rvagMMf 1 


pubertal changes which are in no demonstrabLc way related to the 
fenner, against die perfectly reasonable and efficient system of causes 
and effects which he has learnt both from experience and by instruc¬ 
tion are the two causes of pregnancy and childbirth. 

Parturition, as we have seen, will not, in any event, generally 
occur until bettt'een one and five years after effective marriage. A 
man may have a number of wives with whom he has intercourse fre¬ 
quently, with some perhaps more often than he does with others, yet, 
if they be normally fecund, they will bear children at the most irregular 
intervals, and in their fertility in no possible distinguishable relation¬ 
ship to intercourse. 

It may be observed here that there is now available a ceriain amount 
of evidence which would indicate that the average physiological 
maximum fecundity frequency in women, that is to say the modal 
interval between the children that a woman can conceive, is twenty- 
four months. This has been demonstrated by Abedc ^ for the Pueblo 
Indian, by March and Davenport for Colonial Americans benveen 
the years 1700 10 1850,^ and according to Aberle an analysis of the 
mocW inteival between births based upon 1,714,161 children bom of 
1,69^,217 women in the registration area of the United States was found 
to be also ttt'enty-four months,® a similar interval was also found by 
Pearl for American women of suspected high fecundity.'^ The fecundity 
potential, or the number of pregnancies a woman is capable of sustain¬ 
ing, is, among the Australian, something of which we have absolutely 
no knowledge, and it may be added here chat vc have not much 
more for any other racial group. Aberle found that among the San 
Juan and Santa Clara Pueblo Indian women, vrho used no contracep¬ 
tive measures whatsoever, that the average number of pregnancies 
sustained by them by the time they had reached the menopause (at 
40 years) was ^‘4^ Among the Ogata Sioux the average tt-as 
8-8.® Now, in Australia where the family is necessarily limited to a 
small number of children, infanticide is practised immediately upon 

^ S, B- t>. AWW, ''Fr^L«flcy of Frtgmncy BiJth InEcrvul mnonR Puctid 
j^m*riean Jwimat vf PAy-necl 

■ A, W. Marclb md C, B. Davuipoft, “The Noitn^ kccTv^ b«l^’«en Human Births^” 

* Inc. cit., 77, 

* R- ContiBcqTlMm and FcstiliEy in i,ooQ Women/' Human BioLfgy^ iVp 1^1 ip 

3fij-4a71 ** Contraception imd Fntiliiy in Mairijcd Woraenp n Scooful Report on a 

Siwy Di Family UmhoiicinSj” HMrm.’t vf^ 

^ Abcrif, loc. cit.^ . 

■ A- Hidlietip" Fcoutdily ia dttSioiDt WemeP,*'' Amerkan IouttuIPA yjkatAmhrupokgy^ 

XV, 15)1, *1-50. 


the birth of a child> but only at such times as when the mother feels 
that she is still too heavily burdened with another diild to be able to 
near the newcomer properly,^ or for any other pertinent reason. It is 
possible, then, that the number of pregnancies which a woman, 
under such conditions, can undergo Is somewhat greater than in 
those peoples among whom infanticide is not practised. If this be 
true, then we have here yet another complicating factor, since the 
reduction of the interval between pregnancies thus made possible 
would render it cpiite impossible for anyone to mate any sense out 
of the bewildering prolusion of plienomena thus presented to the 

A factor of quite a dilfeTent and contrasting chameter which may be 
mentioned here is the inHuenoe of the lactation interval. It has, for 
e 3 cample, long been known diac many mammals, including monkeys 
and apes, neither ovulate nor menstruate during the period when tliey 
are suckling their young (the lactation period}. It is now known 
that suckling is the chief cause of the sterile lactation inter^’ai, for when 
the young are removed from their mothers oestious follows shortly 
afterwards.^ A similar sterile Jactation interval also exists in lactating 
women, and since in Australia it is the usual thing for a woman to 
suckle each child for a period of two or three years and even more the 
chances O'f pregnancy being produced in such a woman early in the 
course of this period are greatly reduced.® 

There would appear to be little, then, in intercourse, or in anydiing 
associated with it, thar would necessarily cause the savage to perceive 
that in some way interoourse is connected with pregnancy. Tlie 
premises from which the inference could be made appear to be 


Read’s second emphatic experience is; from one to sU weeks 
following pregnancy there is cessarion of the menses. 

Tills “ emphatic experience ” can be disposed of very shortly. 

^ TAi Afunt^ 

* A- S. Pkrko, *■ Obsemiiafis on ^ CEsirmu Cydt of ihc Albina Pw. 

Soc. LwiikMt Scr. B* voJ- C* TJU iratrnai g/ lA* Ovary^ Lcmdan, 

j A.^ E- Cncu' smd LL MinkaUp " Th& LaEtalicn [nEcm] in tile Itfbuse/' /w/iH 

LonddUp tx, 1930^ 105-110; R. De&ofisley Coipora Lutca of ihc 

■iitlj Spccml Rtference do Fai AjccuJwiUfliicni durutg me IEsiioua Cyde," Pw. Rov^ 
Soe. LoiidM, B, evi^ 1955^ ; S. Zuckomian, “ The Mcflllitisl Cyde ot (he 

PrinulH, pan iVp Obtemiions on the LoctatioiL Period," ZooL Londafi^ 1931^ 

^ Ploflfi and Baitek, iti^ 1935, 171-183^ 


Assuming for the moment that the connection between cessation 
of the menses and pregnancy is in a vague sort of way understood 
among the Anmta, I 6iil altogedier to see how a woman who has just 
become aware that she has been entered by a spirit child, that is, 
in our terms, at the quickening, four and a half months after concep¬ 
tion, and who can at the most have missed but three periods, a number 
which is often exceeded under normal conditions, should connect that 
cessation with intercourse. The woman who has particularly noticed 
tlie cessation of her menstrual flow may liave had intercourse on that 
very day, or she may not have had intercourse for some days or weeks. 
Her sexual activities arc not regulated according to any definite or 
indefinite schedule, so tliat if we grant the totally unwarranted 
assumption that the woman knows that Iter menses c^tse to flow 
at more or less regular intervals, periodically—^most certainly 
it is clear that ihh periodki^ stattds bi m ohservabhi relaivinship 
to a variahlc nufTther of sixuol acts. Only one sexual act could normally 
have produced conception, but wliat is rliere to lead the savage to deduce 
the fact that her menses have ceased to flow as the result of one act 
out of a multitude, with diis or that man ? Where are the constant 
tebrionsbips which it is necessary to trace before the tnidi can be 
determined ? As a matter of fact menstruation would appear to be a 
very irregular condition among the Aninia, and definitely it is not 
recognized among them as a periodic occurrence. With respect even 
to the recognition of the physical signs of puberty, menstruation 
occupies the least important position, the signs most relied upon, 
according to Roheim, being " The development of the pubic hatr, 
the breast and, ui a minor degree^ die first menstruation It is surely 
very significant that menstruation should not be regarded as more 
tlian a minor sign of puberty. 

Strehlow informs us that menstruation is very irregular among die 
Anmta, and that the flow is much less tlian that of the white woman. 
Being so irregular, it is by them regarded as a sort of disease, wliich 
is attributed to the fact that the woman lias been walking about 
in a cold wind, or to the fact that she has been drinking very cold 
water.^ Rohclm states that he has been similarly informed by the 
Anmta in this connection.^ One of Rohetm's informants told liim 
that she had menstruated all the time during her pregnancy, in flat 

‘ C, RufaEjtD, *' Wjrawti M»d thdr life (o CeturU AiMinlii," X Rny. AtaXnp. /uji., lniii, 

T^j], /mt. 

* StrchlDW^ kiC. dtr, ip 

* Roi3cic]| Id^ dt., 


contradiction to which gome of the Amnta women declared that the 
Luritja women do not menstruate at ad. Other women declared that 
the Pitcliemara women only menstruate when they are very young 
and that once they ajre married they do not menstniate again» “ Accord¬ 
ing to the beJief of the Yumu and Pindup, a demon called Inyutalu 
(Hair big) is the cause of menstmadcn. He is covered all over with 
long hair and goes into the vagina which he scratches and pulls with 
his nail to make it bleed. The piri (nail) of the mamu makes the women 
menstruate/' ^ 

From all this it is quite clear that the periodicity of menstruation 
Is not recognked, and that its nature is not understood^ essentially^ 
it w'ould appear^ because of the extreme iiregulaiity of the floWj 
and its non-periodic and extraordinary character. It would also 
seem to be perfectly clear that menstruation is in no w^y connected 
with pregnancy* Roheim, howeveij wTites dtat ** It is generally 
knowm that the cessation of menstruation indicates pregnancy, 
llpaltalka explained how it began when menstruarion ceas^ and 
said that vomiting was the next sign of pre^iancy. From the 
men*s point of view old Moses, the patriarch of the Mission Natives, 
declares that the connection between pregnancy and menstruation 
was always more or less knowrij but diere was a tendency on the 
part of the old women . . . to keep these facts . . , hidden from tlic 
men. Tliis is, of course, in flat contradiction to the official doctrine 
of incamadon 

In die light of the foregoing accounts of the nadves'" beHefe re^tding 
menstruation it would seem highly probable that llpaltalka and Moses 
were retailing information wliich they had received from the 
missionaries. Moses' statement that the connection between pregnancy 
and menstruation had always been ** more or less" known may be 
placed on a par with Streblow statement tliai according to the natives 
the connection between mtercourse and pregnancy has always been 
more or less ** known by the old men, hut kept secret from die young* 
If w'e may rule out here the well knowm desire of the native to be always 
accommodating in his answ^ers to the white observer, wt have still 
to reckon with the strong human tendency to claim as having al'ways 
“ more or less known that which may formerly have been as obscure 
ais an Egyptian night. A mission native would be particularly prone 
[0 make such a claim witli all the urbanity of one learned in the w^ys 
of the Mission world. Even If old Moses* statement were true, which 
* Eiid., ’ Ibid 11^4. 


is greatly lo be doubted^ I do not see that it is, as Roheim says, in 
flat contradiction to the official doctrine of Lncamation. It may have 
been that the cessation of the menses was regarded as a Idnd of prepaia- 
cion for the entry of a spirit child into the womanj and in such a dse 
die idea w^oiild be perfectly compatible with that doctrine* But this 
is mere speculation and it w'oiild serve no useful purpose to continue 
die discussion of diis tnatier here*^ i believe that die orthodox beliefs 
arc correctly represented in the accounts whicli I have given above, 
and these unequivocally show that neither the periodicity nor die 
relationship of pregnancy to mensmiation W'ere understood among 
the pre-Mission Anmta. 

Thus, it w'ould seem to be for from true to say, as Read does, 
that the cessation of the menses constitutes an emphatic experience of 
an inescapably e\^dent nature,^ or diat it is in any way connected witli 
intercourse or even pregnancy, for as we have seen, the Arunta, in 
spite of the Mission influences to which they have been exposed, 
still retain the vaguest notions widi regjard to the nanire and meaning 
of menstruation. 

The QitL^k^STurtg. 

With respect to Read^s dilrd emphatic experience^ at about four 
and a half months from intercourse, the quickening/^ diiSj without 
doubt, IS the most emplmic experience in the whole process of preg¬ 
nancy, but it is also the first and the last such expenence undl l^our 
and birth. In other w'ords, it is tlie only experience^ emphatic or not, 
wliich the narive recogni^tes as ihe first sign of pregnancy; all the 
experiences which follow, if they ever do, are merely ancillary to tMs* 
Thus, the quickening is recognried as the moment of conception 
and the onset of pregnancy, it is die time at wluch the spirit child lias 
entered the woman who will be its host, its social mother then and 
for so long thereafter* 

An important point wliich may be referred to here is that whilsi tlie 
time of quickening is often spoken of as occurring some four and a 

* In thEi moncdloii it ti to note thai iWioR^s ibe Tfebrisoden 1 WQcmn U l^dicved 

10 be dfited tQ die entry of A ^ chikl imtil the nmvm hm cEisedp bni they d& ruMj^ount 
die (MtMt of premmey from the ccsSAtion of dte mertse* but from die lime dial die brewis 
be^n Ki l*'eilp we ppevioca moDlhi duritiig the nmtiei bad ceased W now ipc not COnH- 

Hdcr^ it idl, lht» pTic®it 4 rtCji" Eft cOEuited frocil the foimh or early fifth mooth. Cfr Lw Auitetl, 
*■ PkocnaEinit toofig titc Trobliwid Isbmdoi^" Orto/iii, v* iaJji, loy 

*■ It nny be fkoted here that the of btaniii m die Admirairy Tt Ja ndt bdUevc dial mennruar- 
lion U p wuoed only after an act of intemucK, Jum 3 that oiberwise tbdr i^'omen do POt 
moirtnJate I ht, Up ift Ufw Cmrmn^ London and Ntrw York* S K- r* 

Fortune^ Manui Rt^gw/tj Wdladelphia, 8a-3* 



half months from intercoursej the quickening in reality often occurs 
very much brer (early occurrence of the quickening being considerably 
less frequent than its bte occurrence). When to this fact we add the 
occurrence of premature births of wliich the offspring are vbble, 
and such child^ are viable from the sevemh month onwards, 
we may actually have a diild who is bom a month or two or three 
after it had entered its mother. Tliis^ of cou™, would contribute 
still further towards obscuring the fact that a child ts generally bom 
at a certain deimite time after a certain definite occurrence- Since the 
moment of qurckening will occur at difierent times in different womenj 
and their children will thus be born at difienent times in rebtion to 
that experience, it becomes evident that the quickening does not even 
tell a woman exactly when she is to give birth to a child- Children 
may be bom at any time following the quickening; it would seem 
to depend entirely upon the spirit children themselves, upon their 
own free-willj when they may choose to be bom. Such a view is in 
perfect Itarmony both with the orthodox doctrine and the physical 
facts, which are thus confirmatory of all that the native believes. 

We may summarize this discussion, then, by saying that the Arunta 
have no knowledge of the lebtionship between intercourse and the 
cessation of the menses, nor have they any knowledge of the connec¬ 
tion between the cessation of the menses and the quickening; tliat 
the quickening, and this alone, is recognized as the first sign of preg¬ 
nancy - and, finally, that the time of birth does not necessarily stand 
in any comparatively constant lebdon to the quickening^ as Read 
seems to think. Read seems wholly to have forgotten that the duration 
which he gives for the various stages of the reproductive process 
and its associated effects has been worked out thorouglily only 
within comparatively recent times. 

We have seen above that in the naiive*s experience there is no 
possible reason for connecting any of these events, and that Read^s 
empheuk experiences are not emphatic experiences to the Aninta, 
whatever they may be in other social groupings, with the exception 
of that one upon which Read writes that “Too much stress has 
been laid namely die moment of quickening^ which is in reality die 
sole emphatic experience which is recogni^ by the Arunta as 
connected with pregnancy. 

With respect to the " impressive changes ” enumerated by Read, 
namely “ the swelling of the breasts and of the abdomen, and by still 
other subjective, very variable phenomena, such as euphoria, nausea. 


sick fuides and longings''^ it may be said thai the swelling of the 
breasts and of the abdomen becomes apparent only during the latter 
half of pregnancy, that is afur die quickening, whikt the remainder 
of these “ very variable phenomena ” may not occur at all,*- Un¬ 
questionably some of these subjective experiences do frequently occur 
early in the pregnancy of some women, hut they need not necessarily 
occur in a serial manner, and, in any event, these experiences, when 
they do occur, are of so erratic a nature, some women expeneneing 
them not at all, others experiencing perliaps but one of them and then 
only in very attenuated and hardly noticeable form, whilst others 
occasionally experience them in all tlieic intensity, whUst still other 
women who are not pregnant and are incapable of havii^ children 
are not infrequently affected by similar experiences, that, it seems to 
me, in view of all this variability there can be no sensible reason for 
inferring that such experiences, which may or may not occur, and 
which in any case occur equally among pregnant as among non¬ 
pregnant women, can have any^ing wliatsoever to do w'ith inter¬ 
course, menstruation, or prcgjiancy. 

Read agrees that “ the roost irregular pan of the series from inter¬ 
course to birth is the first stage—^from intercourse to the ccssadon 
of the menses”. But he prtKedes this statement with the words 
“ After the loss of the seasonal rut, and amongst all extant peoples 
words which w'e may take to mean that Read believes, and as Wester- 
maick dunks probable,^ that man was at one time subject to a rutting 
season, a condition which would have rendered it fairly easy to 
discover that intercourse was followed by pregnancy after a definite 
interval, thus leading to the conclusion that the earUest men were 
acquainted with the teladonship between intercourse and pregnancy. 
Since this is a point of some importance and moreover has a consider¬ 
able bearing upon our subject, it will be worth while to inquire into 
the matter here. 

Thi Alleged Htiman Pairing Semon in Primitive Times. 

Westemnarck Las, m modem dmes, been chiefly responsible for Intro¬ 
ducing the theory of the existence of a human pairi i^ season in primidve 
times. In the first volume of his History of Human Marriage he devoies 

' Tbua, of the New Guinm Aiape^.Mcad WfiftS," MDming UdemM pregoascy 

ttaknown,” Tmpfrii/rwttf. 1^3 3 ^ 

* /fa 149^ 

* TA* Human MarnagWt %VOh.fhilindDtkf I ^lU, dtup. ji, 7^ lOrli ^ 

7 ^ Fitfur# LcndkiD. Bod New Yiatk,, 1^3^ to. 


the whple of his second chapter to a disciission, supported by some two 
hundred citations from the relevant liteiature^ c^culated to establish 
tilts tJieory/ a discussion which leads him to believe tliat the primitive 
ancestors of modem man^ were characterized by a dehnite pairing 
season,® A similar opinion has been expressed by a number of other 
writers, but in receni times by none more vigorously rlian Professor 
A. M. Carr-Saunders,'* This notion has even crept into tile physiolo- 
^cal literature,® and has even been noticed in a very widely us^ and 
most excellent purely general treatise on physiology.® 

In actual fact the evidence is completely against this theory, and 
quite as completely against it in respect of the “ half-human ” ancestors 
of man. 

The argument for a human pairing season In primitive times usually 
proceeds along the following lines: Almost all the lower mammals 
are characterized by a pairing season, so, too, are all the monkeys and 
anthropoid apes, whilst in certain groups of primitive people a pairing 
season has also been recorded by various travellers. Moreover, 
the periods at which the greatest number of births take place in the 
human species indicate the survi^'al of a primitive human sexual 
rhythm associated with ** annual changes in the hitman organism 
especially connected with the sex fimetion*’.’ Furthermore, the 
practice of certain fertility and erode ceremonies at certain times of 
the year, usually in spring and autumn, would tend to support this 

As far as the lower, or non-primate, mammals are concerned, these, 
of course, are only indirectly and very remotely related to the order 
of mammals of which man is a member, so that there can really be 
very little point in citing the evidence for such groups in connection 
with the problem as it is related to man ; there is more point in citing 
the evidence for the primates, the order of mammals to which man 
belongs, and here only in respect of the catarrbinae, the monkeys 
and apes of the Old World, for it is to t he catarrliine group of primates 
alone that man is phylogenetically closely linked. This is not to say 
that the study of the sexual functioning of the lou'er mammals is 

^ Ibid!. 

* lbi(L^ ray. 

■ Unictp 8r^ Uhl niajntiijiied in the same mitlKnr^i latest wDri, TA# ^Londoj^ 

* Am Nl. TSa P^ptiLuLsA Pto^iejru Oxfoidj. 02^4. 

^ \ Phr^tMigy if RrpndLtctmr^ Lo^on, i^ia, 

* S. Wriglitt Ojifoid^ 

in th* Piy^i^fgy ef SS sqq. 

26o critical theories relating to 

pointless in connection with any liglit it may serve to throw upon the 
behaviour of higher irtaiumals, but iliat the dtadon of the sexual 
seasonal behaviour of the lower manvmals in support of tlte possible 
pre-existence of such behaviour in human groups, and as suggestive 
of the existence of a pairing season in primitive man, can be of no 
very great pertinence when there is now not the slightest evidence 
of die former existence of such seasonal behaviour either in groups of 
apes or of men. 

The itifonnation at our disposal concerning the Old World monkeys 
U limited chiefly to the rhesus monisey, or macatpie of India, and to the 
baboons, chiefly of Africa. 

According to Hartman, who has thus far published the most 
exhaustive study of reproduction in the macatpie, ‘*it ts now possible 
to sate deflnitely that the rhesus monkey breeds in winter and is 
sterile in summer.*' ^ Tills statement was based upon a study of the 
weekly and. monthly distribution of the conception rate in 4S 
animals studied by himself, and 81 animals for whom there 
were reliable records from other sources, a total of 119 cases. 
Hartman's own anim al s showed that “ By far the greater majority 
(of conceptions) fall in the November-December-January quarter 
Now, when Hartman's data are subjected to analysis it is found that 
the conceptions ate distributed during each month in the following 
frequencies : the total number it is to be remembered being 119:—- 
Jan. Fti), Ulr. Apr. May June July Amj. Sept. Oei. Nov. Dec. 

11 7 1 S 8 I t 6 8 31 34 

From these figures it would appear that the relatively sterile months 
in the rhesus monkey fall in June and July and that thereafter, begin¬ 
ning in August, th^e is a gradual increase in fecundity tlirough 
September to a very considerable iitcrease in October, which increase 
leaches its peak in November, and is all but maintained in December, 
gradually declining in January to about a fourth of the maximum 
fecundity potentid in April and Nfay, until in June and July the 
lowest fecundity level is reached. The mimber is 74, or 57 ‘ 8 
in the quarter January-Febniary-Maich ; id, or IX ‘4 li* 

the two months April-May, and 2, or 1*5 per cent, in the months of 
June-July—die months characterized by the lowest number of 
concepiions, whilst in the months of August-Septembex dtere are 
14, or IQ- 8 per cent, of conceptions. These figures would tend to show, 
therefore, chat the rhesus monkey is capable of conceiving at any 

^ CL G. HjftmKk, Stsii£u, etc.,, * l^id^ 



time of the year, though much less frequently in the summer montfis 
than in the winter months. In the months of June and July it may be 
accepted as a general fact that tite greater number of rhesus monkeys 
are relatively sterile, for Hartman has shown fairly conclusively that 
ovulations are of comparatively rare occurrence in the summer 
months. But these animals are not altogether sterile, as a species, 
during these months, as is shown by the two recorded conceptions, 
and as is also indicated by Hartman’s statement that he found definite 
evidence of ovulation in one of his animals during the summer, and 
in another case the presence of " a fairly large follicle with little likeli¬ 
hood of rupturing If we eliminate the latter case we may regard 
the former as a possible conception, which would make a tot^ of tw'O 
cases of actual and possible cases of conception in Hartman’s colony 
of forty-eight animals, or 4*2 per cent of conceptions, both in the 
montlt of July which is probably an estimate nearer the truth than 
the 1 * j per cent of conceptions reported for the 129 cases. 

Now in spite of the lower frequency of conceptions in the months 
not of tlie winter quarter (it should be remembered that the order of 
tlie numbers we are here dealing with is very small, and that were the 
total number of animals increased, rite actual numerical di&renca 
would not appear so striking, though we assume that the percentage 
differences would remain the same), it is to be noted that the deviations 
from the mean number of the conceptions never falls below one fifth 
(excepting in the June-July months) of the mean, whilst the mean 
conception frequency rate for the months from January to the end of 
May is B, ^ving a mean deviation of — 17 conceptions, or fiB *0 per cent 
of conceprions per month less than in the high fecundity period, or 
only 4*0 per cent of actual conceptions per month, a figure which is 
very close to our estimate of 4*a per cent for Hartman’s own data. 

Thus, it is clear that the rhesus monkey is able to conceive, and 
therefore to breed, at any time during the year,^ though much less 
successfully during the summer months than in the winter months. 
Hartman’s statement, therefore, that " the rhesus monkey breeds in 
winter and is sterile in summer ” is, upon his owm showing, not 
altogether correa, for, as we have seen, 31*0 per cent of rhesus 
conceptions take place during the period from January to the end of 
May, and 4*0 percent in the so-cajled sterile months of June-July. 

Tliat there are periodic fluctuations in the conception rate of all 

I Ibid. 

■ S. ZuebtfmoA, " THc Mcfutnul Cyde the Piiimtes^" pi. Pnx. Sec^ 


primates not excluding man, there can be no douht,^ but such fluctua¬ 
tions do not make it at all necessary to conclude that that period which 
h characierized by the greatest number of conceptions represents the 
breeding season or even the last vestige of such a season in the species 
in which it occurs. As Zuckerman has conclusively shown “ The 
essential difference in breeding-habit between those primates about 
which diere is dchnite information and apparently the majority 
of non-primate mammals is that tlie monkeys can and do breed at all 
times. Variations in their birtli-rates are without doubt significant 
phenomena, but they are secondary to this important fact Tliat there 
are maximum and minimuni conception periods in the annual life of 
every mammal there can be very Utde doi^t, and furdier, that in some 
mammals the conception period is restricted to a definite time of the 
year when tlie animals are said to be in rut, or in a state of sexual 
excitement and preparedness, during which the animals pair and 
generate the being who will be born some time later, whence this 
period has come to be v^ously kno^m as the rutitng^ pairings or 
season. But Such a state of aflairs does not exist among any 
of the catairhina:, not even in the rhesus monkey which b very far 
removed from any of the apes or maui^ In all primates copulation goes 
on throughout the year. Though there is a tendency during die hot 
summer months for sexual activity to be diminished, the phenomenon 
of rut is not limited to any particular time of the year, but physiolcK 
gicatly, in the monkeys, ooctirs each month witli the swelling of the 
sexual skin, or during the period following each menstruation, whilst 
psycholc^cally sexual excitement may ob^n ihiougliout almost 
every moment of the year with hardly a break. ** Monkeys,'" writes 
Zuckerman, “ that copulate in captivity do so at all rimes, but copula^ 
lion occurs most frequently during the period of maximum sexual 
skin activity.*^ ^ On the other hand Hartman writes in respect of the 
rhesus monkey that “ as a rule die females will accept the male when¬ 
ever given the opponuniiy . . . the stage of the menstrual cycle has 
nothing to do widi their refusal or acceptance"'.* There is thus, 
among the primates, no form of behaviour which may be described 

^ See pu in 3. seascnul ToriatkHi in ihc men«ni^ c^dc of women if 


* Locu dtu. Prat. ZW. Sae. IjanJbn^ io66~^ i Ult tisat aUtllor'c Sodat 

Life ef Monk^t aaJ IjDfuloa, 

^ S. ** Mdumul CycK of the Frimalcs, pC ij Genod Nabiir nn^ HQiiK^kigyp*^ 

Prtx. Sac. loja, 741 ^ 

* C. G* HafiHWn, *' TjiePa^ of Cotsdon ta llir ^ Maeacm rhesus, Tim D^Setiptiofl 

of PutUririOA ia Sue ud BduvHHir of the Yoimg*" Jmtfmi Mammshgjrt ia, 



as indicating the existence of a rutiing^ season^ 

for, among the camrrhinse at least, netting, pairing, and breeding take 
pboe more or less continuously throughout the year, although, 
of course, h is true that during each month when the sexual skin 
activity is at its highest, the sexual activity of the animals is heightened; 
but in all this there is no periodicity of either pairing or breeding. 
Among the catarrhirue which have been investigated up to the present 
time the fact lias clearly emerged diat they are capable of breeding 
at any time, though in some caBcs much more so at certain periods 
than at others, a fact tliat does not in any appreciable way modify 
the copulatory behaviour of these animals* It is of Just this point, 
however, that the proponents of the theory of a human pairing season 
tn primitive times seem to be completely una^vare. Among the 
catarrhinEe there is no such thing as a pairing season, not even among 
the group of monkeys 1 have chosen to discuss at some length because 
of the favourable evidence that they would seem to afford in support 
of the breeding season theory, namely the rhesus monkeys. Before 
leaving this matter here 1 should like to quote Zuckerman's very 
carefully considered conclusion with respect to the breeding habits 
of the primates. He writes, the evidence indicates dearly tliat 
monkeys can conceive at any rime in captivity, and presumably, 
therefore, like the baboon, at any time in the wild." ^ His field observa¬ 
tions “ prove conclusively that the chacma baboon of the Eastern 
Province of South Africa has no demarcated breeding season in its 
wild state By this last statement, of course, Zuckerman means that 
the baboons observed by him manifested no pairing acriviries of a 
seasonal nature, the statement does not refer to number of concep¬ 
tions, but Zuckemian, who has had a very large experience in this 
connection, is definitely of the opinion that monkeys can conceive 
at any time during the year* 

714e Sexual BeA&yiour of tAe Great j4pej. 

The anthropomorpha, or man-like apes, consist of the gibbon, 
the orang, the chimpanzee, and the gorilla, but it is only in conneaion 
with the latter two animals that man can he said to stand in any close 
relation. I know of no obscrv'ations on the sexual life of the gibbon, 
but for the orang the observations of Fox prove that the sexual 

^ S. Ziacltsman^ Menstrual Cyde of the PrtiEKitt% pL IHp 11115: AHesal Bneduv 
Season uf Pitfixases, with ^ectill ntfieftsme id the Chacmd BabcK]ii(Fd^ p&Kcirmi)P Proc. ZoGi. 

* Ibidr 341 . 


behaviour of this group of anthropoids is not in any ’W'ay limited by 
the oestrum. "The sexual act/' writes Fox, “is practised daily^ 
without relation to the sexual cycle.“ ^ 

For the chimpaEizee we have the observations of a number of 
different investigators. Montane states that among the captive animals 
observed by him copulation took, place consistently tbrougbout the 
year, and quite as often during the period of pregnancy as at other 
rimes.^ Sokolowsky states that “ repeated intercourse every day “ 
was the rule among the captive chimpanzees under his observation.® 
A similar inference is no doubt to be drawn from K6hler*s remark 
that this extreme frequency of sexual effects implies a certain triviliza- 
tion of this sphere of lifcj rather than its intensity".^ Fox writes 
of a pair of chimpanzees which were under his observatioti for some 
time iliai “ Although the act was practised frequently, day and night, 
during the interval between the heat periods, it was more prolonged 
and apparently more interesting to bo^ animals, tile female especially, 
during these periods. * Heat period ^ means the duration of the perineal 
swelling. The greater the sw'eUing tlie more frequent the sexual 
act".^ Kohler similarly remarked in his chimpanzees that “After 
the cessation of the flow, there is an excess of sexual desire, accompanied 
by a pronounced swelling of the whole external ^niralia 
Schultz and Snyder report of the Johns Hopkins colony of 
chimpan^u^s that coitus between the pairs of animals under their 
obsert'ation was indulged in fairly regularly three and more times a 
day, adding that, according to the records, intercourse berw^een 
the animals studied did not appear to be markedly mfluenced by 
the menstrual cycle of the female. These observers do not appear to 
have noted any increase in sexual desire in the female following the 
cessation of the menses J 

With respect to the sexual life of the mature gorilla observations 
are lacking^ but such evidence as there exists for inunarute animals 

^ H. F&i;^ ■* The Birth of Twp Ambrop^idi Aprt,'^ Journal af i, 

4 ^- 

* L Moritancp K&tas saAm ttn dlimpaiflce ftacido in Cuba," Sx. Caiaiut Nffti 

" Poty” ip ; ■" HtiEoife d'lailc famiBe djc e^diapinsai, Emite Phyi^togiquc," 

BuU. tt Sao. * 4 ^ 3 ?- 

» ^ Sohniowaky, "Tb^SMuil yjvof Antbrapoid Apes,^ Urv^^anJCuiancoui Riyiawt 

nprup 151 j, •Stl-lj. 

* W. K^ibleTp Ta# MviUfE^ Landjofl, Tpa^p 314. 

* H. Fai,!«. dt, Jo, 

* toe. dL, jtj, 

^ A " ObsHvidcfli on Hq^mcfuctiaEi fn the ChiHipxnzeCp** 

BuiUun (jf ij&« /oiirH Hop^Ai I/ajfKtai^ Ivaj^ *'93f p 


would strongly suggest that the stacual life of the gorilla in nowise 
differs from that of the chimpanzee.^ 

In summarizing the significance of the foregoing observations 
{ could not do better tlian quote Miller's remarks in this connection. 
In the primates, he writes, “ the sexual psychology of the female as 
well as that of the male has been liberated from stria periodical 
cBstious control; or^ what amounts to the same thing so far as 
behaviour is coticented, the physiological stimuli to mating, though 
they may be stronger in the female at some times than at others, appear 
to be rarely if ever completely absent in either sex at any part of the 
year. The behaviour patterns are not necessarily uniform at all seasons i 
bur conspicuously marked physiological rhythms are no longer the 
nearly exclusive regulating factors in the mating behaviour of either 
sex. Mating behaviour becomes established as part of the play aaivities 
of young individuals, and from this early period om^■ard until senility 
makes it impossible, it may occur at any time, even during pregnancy, 
when not inJtibited by some unfavourite factor such as fear, fatigue, 
hot weather, moult, injury, or ill health. Throughout its course it 
lends, in both sexes, to assume more nearly the form of an ever- 
available amusement activity than that of a periodic blind submission 
to an inescapable racial force.” ^ 

Finally, as Zuckerman has put the matter, ” The matings of ihe 
lower mammal are confined to short periods circumscribed by the 
activity of the follicular hormones. The matings of the primate are 
diffused over the entire cycle, paralleling the conrinued action of the 
follicular hormone, but varying in frequency according to the varying 
degrees of activity of that hormone,”* We may also note here 
Hitzheiroer and Heck's conclusion, which is based upon the analysis 
of the reports of field naturalists and explorers, that ” in every troop 
of monkeys young ones of every are found at all seasons ”, that 
“ in their productive activities [^eyj are not confined to any definite 
season ”.•* 

Both Zuckerman ® and Hartman * have pointed out that such 

I lU " The Mind M die Gdrilb^ pt ii, M^Td 

ii, No. 6 , 1^17, ; pt Jit. "Memory.** Cmnpsftmyt Mw- 

V. 1913, ^ ' 

* C. S„ MiUer^ •" The Prinuite B^iis of Huensn SemiaJ Beha^innrp" die lUvitw 

VI, 1931. 

’ Lot OL* 1910, 7^*^ 

* and Stras&cn. Ti^rLi^ laii. 

* Lflt dLp 1930, 69+ 

* C- G. Ifanman^'* The Breeding Seaion in MonkeyB," 153 *p 


is of uncertain vsluc si^cc it is so often conHictin^ 3iid not 
based upon carefully observed and recorded facts. Upon such grounds, 

1 think, the objections may be admitted, nevertheless, Hitzheimer 
and Heck's conclusion is supported by the facts so far as U has been 
possible to test them under l^otatory conditions. 

In the light of the foregoing evidence, then, it becomes clear that 
in the behaviour of the anthropoids, not to speak of the Old World 
monkeys, there does not exist a particle of evidence which would 
suggest dtat they are or have ever been characterized by a rutting, 
bleeding, or pairing season, on the other iiand all the evidence is 
entirely opposed to the possibility of such conditions ever having 
existed among them. If this is so, and it is indisputably so, what then 
becomes of the pairing season hypothesis of man's lialf-human 
ancestors ? Without an undue appearance of dialecdcal fadhty I thtnk 
we may justly answer : Nothing. The evidence certainly warrants no 
other conclusion. Lest, however, it may be thought that there may be 
some evidence for recent man himself wliich might justify such an 
hypothesis, let us briefly consider this evidence before wc leave this 
subject altogetlicr. It is by no means uninscructive. 

Westcrmaick begins lus citation of the evidence in support of the 
breeding or pairing season hypotliesis in primeval man with the 
statement that, "According to Mr. Johnston, the wild Indians of 
California, belonging to the tow'esr races on earth, have their rutting 
seasons as regularly as have the deer, the elk, the antelope, or any other 
animals.^ With reference to some of these Indians, Mr. Powers 
says that spring ‘ is a literal Saint Valentine's Day with them, as with 
the natural birds and beasts of the forest M ” 2,3 Carr-Saunders also 
quotes this statement with complete approval as indicating the former 
existence of a condition in which conception could take place only 
atone season during the year.*' 

These statements are typical of the majority of those cited botli by 
Westermatck and by Carr-Saunders, but unlike these many others, 
there is a modicum of truth in them, but of a totally different nature 
from that imagined by these two authors, for when we consult our 
greatest authority on the California Indians, namely Professor A- L. 
Krocher, we find him writing of the Yurok, for example, who dwell 

* A. The tjUfarab in |L R* Sehooljjilt’s ■" KifitoriEsl Ecid 

Inforautaon,” /#n?A|yu Ahongimtl iv^ i*6c\ ii+ 

■ PowHij of CdEfirruay >b'^iriglon, iStTi 

* ^/liKUy if /fimiart 

* Pcpiiation 94^ 9^ I», 



along the readier of the lower Klamath River, a people who are 
characterized fay an excessive desire for wealth and the great regard 
in which they hold money, which amang them circulates in the form 
of dentalium shells, “ The signiheant fact is that they hold, a strong 
convictioii that tlie dentalium money and the congress of tlte sexes 
stand in a relation of inherent antithesis. This is one reason given 
for the summer mating season t the shells would leave the house in 
which conjugal desires were satisfied, and it is too cold and rainy 
to sleep outdoors in winter. . . . Births occurred among the Yutok 
and their neighbours chiefly in spring. This was, of course, not because 
of any animal-Uhe impulse to rut in a certain season, as has sometimes 
been imagined, but because of highly specialized ideas of property 
and magic. . . . Since dentalia and other valuables were kept in die 
house, a man never slept there with his wife. . . . The insEltutton 
of the sweat house rendered this easily possible. In summer, however, 
when the cold rains were over, the couple made their bed outdoors ; 
vkUth the result that it seems natural to the Yurok that children should 
be bom in spring.*^ ^ 

Alas for the rutting season of the wild Indians of California J 

With respect to such statements as Oldfield's, quoted by 
Westermarck, concerning the Watchendiesof Western Australia, “Like 
beasts of the held, the savage has but one time for copulation in the 
year. About tlie middle of spring , , , the Watch-an-dles begin to 
think of holding their grand semi-reli^ous fi^tis'al of Caa-ro, prepara¬ 
tory to the performance of the Important duty of procreation.,”® 
these are quite clearly geneialized misintjerpretations of the sigrultcanoe 
of certain Australian ceremomes, with many of which we have already 
had occasion to become partially familiar. In any event, we have Curr’s 
succinct and emphatic denial of the existence of anything like a sexual 
season among any of the Australian aborigines,® and likewise, Spencer’s 
statement that Oldfield’s remark holds true for none of the Australian 
tribes known to him.* It would be strange indeed if there had been 
anydimg conceivably cesembling a mating season among the 
Australians that such observers as Fison, Howitt, Basedow, Spencer, 
Gillen, Brown, and the many modem students of the Australian 

^ A. I- Kf^Kber, " Hjmdbook of liic lodlaDs of rjlif n mia *' jgf jf/rwrxiut ^knology 

bpnrlil, 4 *^* 

* A, OEdficyi of Auaixaluit" Trmiaftiwu of 1A4 N-S-i^ 

iii^ ijOm 

* M- CLirr^ T'At AuxtfdBait Raet^ MelBcume 9nd Lorkdon, 4 veU^, inA* If Jio 

*■ Pbtirjiul ffunli: vs be. dc., 


aboriginal should have {ailed to have become ai^aic of its existence. 
The great inherent improbability of the existence of such a season 
or anything approaching it, among any people whatsoever, really 
renders any further discussion of this matter an occupation too nearly 
related to a supererogarive emphasis of the obvious. 

Fertility festivals and otlier ceremonies with whkh sexual licence 
may be associated have never been demonstrated to be assisted 
with any periods of incieased sexual desire, and there ts not the slightest 
evidence to support the view that such an association may exist; 
this is a point which Westermaick lias himself made and accepted,^ 
it need not be discussed here. 

There b one final mailer in connection W'iih man that must be 
disposed of before we may proceed furtber. Westermarck is at great 
pninn: to show, by means of the citation of statistics of births from 
various parts of the w'orld, that there would appear to he definite 
evidence in support of the belief that “ an annual increase of the sexual 
desire or of the reproductii,-e power, generally in spring, is of frequent 
occurrence in mankind '*.® TTic evidence upon which tills statement 
is based consists of reports of various writers on the incidence of 
births for various months w'hich indicate, on the whole, tliat the greatest 
number of births occur in the early spring with another maximum in or 
about December. Westermarck admits that *' The periodical fluctua- 
rions in the birth-rate may no doubt be due to various causi». But/’ 
he thinks, " tliete is every reason to believe that the maximum in 
February and March (in Chile, September) is, at least to a large extent, 
due to an increased tendency to procreation in May and June (in Chile, 
December)." ^ Heape has expressed a simibr opinion in connection 
with Cuban conceptions.'* " If," adds Westermarck, " we thus find 
in man, even to this day, an increase either of the sexual desire or of 
the reproductive power in spring or at the begmning of siimrneir, 
I think we may look upon it as a survival of a pairing season among our 
fairly human or pre-human ancestors. We are the more justified in 
doing so as a sexual season occurs among the man-like ap^, and 
conditions similar to those w'hicli led to it in their case may be supposed 
to have produced the same result in the case of primeval man." ^ 

We have already had occasion to see bow for {torn the truth these 
statements are conoeiiung die man-like apes. We have now briefly 

1 Ibid,, ■ tWd * QttL, ^ 

* W. ** 'The Propwtifili ci the StfC* Pfoduced hy Whita and CkilQliEcd Peoptet in 

CLiba,"" rraiuqtrtiMfci if iht UnackHiK Scr- B, cc, agfl eqq, 

* Lqc. ciLp 97‘ 



to $how dut whilst it is perfectly true that these seasonal periods during 
the year when the number of birdis is greatest do occur, that these, 
however, have no connection whatsoever with ** an increased tendency 
of procreation but that they are instead due chiefly to meteoiologic^ 
factors, and that Instead of “ an increase either of the sexual desire 
or of tlie reproductive power in spring or at the beginning of the 
summer ”, the evidence is on the contrary quite conclusive that where 
the temperature rises above 70” F. there is a gradual decrease of 
the reproductive power in these months, culminating in the summer 
months when it is at its lowest ebb. 

Mills and Senior have recently shown that variation in conception 
rates in different localities are very significantly correlated with climatic 
factors. An analysis of tlie birth-rate of very many different climatic 
regions shows that both low and high temperatures are not conducive 
to the successful production of conception, and that human fertility 
is highest in any given population at a temperature of 65 “ F. In 
Japan, to take but one example, the climatic effects are most striking. 
” Tlie spring mondis of April, May, and early June are almost perfect 
so far as temperature is concerned, but from the middle of June to 
early September the humidity ts almost constantly high, day and night, 
while the mean temperature rises to 9j" F. Theie is a per cent 
fall (of conceptions) during tlieir tropical summer period J Calcula¬ 
tion has shown that not over 10 per cent of this spring rise in concep¬ 
tions here could be attributed to the increase in the marriage rate.*’ ^ 
Evidence, in die form of stadsdes, obtained from the houses of 
ptostitudon, show that there is no significant depression of male sexual 
activity during the hot siunmer months.* 

The authors conclude that ** Since Japan shows the most marked 
seasonal variadons in concepdons, the inference is that a biologic 
reduction in fertility is produced by heat **.* 

Everywhere in the world the story Is die same, low conoGpiion 
rates are correlated with the months with hi^ or low temperatures, 
and hi^ conception rates with the months characterized by an optimum 
temperature of about dj* F. 

It is known that the elevadon of the temperature of the tesdcles by 
two or three degrees will have the effect of inhibidng spermatogenesis. 
Reduction of the temperature to a low level probably has a similar 
effect. Thus, it is very probable that temperature changes act directly 

* CL A. JifiEtf urd A* Soikir, ** Ocm dimalC' AiScct tlif Humai 'C n inr r ptif!in Hafic ? ** 
^InUrikii A£t££smj KlWf ^l-^i 

■ IbuL^ 9^7. ■ Ibid* 


or indirectly upon the sex glands during the hot and the cold months, 
and inhibits their activity, at least, to some extent. Experinienial 
investigations recently carded out by Dr. Cordelia Ogle to test just 
these points have yielded the most striking corroborative evidence in 
this connection. White mice were the subjects used in the experiment. 
Two constant tempeiature rooms, identical in construction, were 
erected. One was kept at 6cHS8® F. with a very short temperature 
cycle so that tlie mean tempetature of 64” F, predominated most of 
the time. The other w'as kept at SS-’^a'^F. with the humidity near 
75 percent. The control room had a temperature range of 70-80“ F, 

A single strain of white mice bred in the control room were at 
twenty-one days of age separated from the motheis and placed in die 
various rooms for observation. As a result of this experiment Dr. Ogle 
found dial the mice subjected to a warm humid temperature exhibited 
a low degree of fertility in three ways, namely, a low perccntajge of 
matings diai result in pregnancy, small litter size, and low vitality 
of offspring. The mice, however, kept in the steady cool environment 
showed the highest degree of fertility, in the greatest number of 
matings resulting in conception, the laigje litters of lusty offspring 
bom, and the earlier onset of sexual life and fertility. Here then is an 
p ffj c i^nt demonstration of the dependence of fertility, in mice, upon 
climatic factors, as expressed in temis of temperature. There is, of 
course, everv reason to believe that the same conditions hold good for 
man. There can be little doubt, as Dr. Ogle says, that the climatic 
{actors here involved act either direedy or indirectly upon the sex 

It is also very probable that the changes in the nature, intensity, 
and duration of the light during the various months or seasons plays 
a considerable part in this connection. The influence of light upon 
plant and animal tissues is yet far from being completely understood, 
but that light has very definite kinds of action upon such tissues is 
well known. Bearing upon the matter we are discussing attention 
may be drawn to such a fact as that demonstrated by English,* that 
tropical birds in general lay far smaller clutches of eggs than even 
quite nearly related species nesting in the notthem hemisphere. Also 
may be mentioned here the brilliant w'ork of Professor William Rowan 
on the effect of Ugh* “po" the gonads, the breeding, and the migrations 

i C Ofitc* of ScKual Activi^ 10 Eftvinofinu:^fg3 Stunulitiofi,*' fount. 

PAmaloffy^ evil, 

‘ T. ^ Fnf ii'd-u ^ ‘ On the GreatET ot ihti Ia u a Aea&dA for 

SpfinB MigJWiDii," liu, lids 


of and Bissonnette's application of Professor Rowan’^ methods 
£0 the study of the effects of the v^ious components of light upon 
the breeding behaviour of mamm^,- HerCj too^ may be raenrioned 
the fact, rccendy demonstrated, that ozone tends lo destroy vitamin 
E, the vitamin of reproduction,^ Inactivauon of vitamin E invariably 
results in sterility,^ a result which may occur otganicaliy in a variety 
of different ways, 

Hanman found that ovulation was inMbhed during the summer 
months in his macaques, tliat during this season there was a greater 
irregukrity of menstruation, a greater incidence of amenoirhcea, 
reduced sexual skin colour, and a soraewliat lessened intensity of 
the menstrual flow^ whilst both the males and the females were sexually 
much less ardent.^ 

Engle and Shelesnyak, in a smdy of 3,140 menstrual cycles in one 
hundred girls from the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York, 
found a distinct seasonal Lnddence in the occurrence of menmches* 
Only tS per cent of the to^ occurring during the summer months 
of June, July, and Augusts Further, these investigators found that 
the long intervals of amenorrhcea initiated by a period in July were 
twice as long as those initiated m any other two months of the year, 
and that, hnaUy, periods of amenorrhcea are especially frequent during 
the summer months although they occur throughout the yearA 

Similar records on the disturbance of the menstrual cycle during 
the summer months liave re^ndy been fully reported for medically 
normal adult women by Ahen,'^ Fluhman,'^ and King.® 

With such evidence before us taken in conjunction with the evidence 
of the human birth-rate which proves that the least numher of concep- 

^ W. Ikmai, On PhctoperfoeEum, Eleproduoivc Perlodldryi el^ Aimual Migpiiw 

ef Bink and Certain /W. Svfion JVdt. Mif.j aroiii, 1 I47-I i T/n lUddii 

■ T.^ Ef MddiEatim of Xramnulbji SeimJ Cyiis^ Rcaftioa of FcrrctB 

(i^iwu vsJgafT^ ofBo^SB^tnE^fctdc Ugfu added l>ark m November and Deoembcf^** 

B, tx, i9ja, For ^ vmamsy of the ticeramre deallfig wiib pboio- 

p«riodttm die reader miy rannili T, |L FhoCotpcr^odifm^” Quarrir^ Rnirw 

if Suiogy^ 1936, 

* H. S. Olcon, " ytnmht £> IT. Stability of Coacemrata toTairk OxiidixiRg and Heduong 

evii, 1934, 477 ” 4 - 

* Hr M. Eiod G. O, Burr, ViGunin of fA* Umr^rd^ tfCaS/orma, viil, 1937- 

■ Hartman, rSuufei, eDC^ lot CiC, 38-9^ 

* E, Jatd M. <1 Shekan)^, First Menicriuiiiofi tnd SubKqufflt Cyda 

of Pubertal Girls," Human vi, 1014, 431-453. 

1 £L AUm, ^ Ther iniegut^ty df dl£ Mautnul Fimndcm," Amtr, /dum. if Oitia. ujnd 
wCi), 1933, 

■ C* F, FUihfiiaii, " Tbe Prebbem of Imguljtr idmir. Joum. f Olifftt* amf 

€ryrue.f sjcvi, 1933, 

* J. L, King* ^^MAmul IclErvak/' f snd CjfVrtt, Efv (j)^ 1933^ 

tSj- 7 - 


dons occur during the summer months and, interestingly enough, 
the greatest number of abordons have been shown to occur during 
these months alsOj,^ it would appear quite certain thar both in the sub¬ 
human primates and iu man ilie reproductive powers are at their 
mmimiim functional levcts during the summer months. That this 
minimal functioning is to the largest extent determined by meteoro¬ 
logical factors is indicated by the fact that the incidence of conceptions 
in the macaque is the s^ue in the Northern Hemisphepe as in the 
Southern Henusphere, where die months but not the seasons are 
reversed,^ tlius beaurifijlly demonstrating die dependence^ other diings 
being equal, of the fertility rate upon climatic factors. 

In the primates including man there is every reason to believe that 
such climatic fectors have always been opemdve, and have had no more 
influence in producing behaviour of a rutdng kind, or increased sexual 
desire, than they have to-day. Were it necessary, it might even be 
plausibly argued that during the various ice-ages both the sub-human 
primates and man functioned sexually and reptoductively at their 
maximum level throu^out the year, and that the primeval ancestors 
of modern man could not upon iliese grounds alone have been 
characterized by a rutring or pairing season ; but the point is hardly 
worth arguing here, for it must be abundandy clear that neitlier die 
man-like apes nor primei’al man can have bewi characterized by a 
rutting, pairing, or breeding season* Since this is so it must also be 
equally apparent that primeval man was completely devoid of this 
suggested means of determining the periodic nature of the relationship 
betw'een intercourse and childbUdi. 

At this juncture we may return lo our discussion of Read^s analysis. 

Ciimuliiiivc £xp^rimce arid tAe IG^awlcdg^ of Paterni^^ 

Read has expressed the opinion that ** Tlie knowledge of paternity 

* ^ , does not depend upon deliberate obsenration but upon cumulative 

experience age after age; in die course of which it appsrs that, 
although A (intercourse) often happens without B (the rest of the 
series to childbirth), B never happens without A. This generates a 
belief diat B is dependent on A; but also tbat B is not dependent on 
A alone, or else it would always follow. Wbai eke B depends on 
is unknowTi; so it may be magic or the agency of spirits. . . * 

* W* Mmar, “ Hmmn AhomozC Hwnsm J4. ^^7^- 

■ C. G. Huimanp S t ti St r, 

* <1 Etessdi N0 Pamsiiyf 14?. 



In the case of the Arunta and the Trobrianders Read believes that we 
are dealing vnth extreme examples^ these people instead of regarding 
the magical or spirirual agencies as auxitiary, as other peoples do^ 
regard them instead as tlie sole operative causes A We must expect,'" 
remarks Read, “ to meet with extreme cases/' ^ 

As a formal logician Read has cjuite clearly been unable to escape 
the formal inevitability of the ntediod of concomitant variation, 
and his argument here represents a pretty effective illustration of die 
inefficacy which F. C. S. Schiller has for so many yi^trs been urging 
characterises tlie mere verbalism of such modes of thought- Einstein 
has somewhere said that pure logical thinking can give us no knowledge 
whatsoever of the world of experience—all knowledge abovn reality 
beginning with experience and terminating with it. What Einstein 
here had in mind was die experience of the mathematical physicist, 
which ts without quesdon die most extensive as well as the most 
intensive form of experience available to any human being. But for 
the mathemadcal physicist as well as for the lowest savage experience 
is a function of die comenc of consciousness. Experience is most 
gienerally accepted to mean cmsciousfy livtJ or uttdergofti^ 

and consciousness as awcreness^ but ii is clear diat the aw^areness is 
inseparable from a context whidi, indeed, conditions its nature, 
namely die background of experience ctilturally interpreted which 
has in the past been transmitted duough the consciousness to die mind» 
There is, however, no dualism involved here of content and conscious^- 
ness, for it is quite impossible to be a^=^aje without a content w'hJch, 
if it does not generate that awareness, at least forms the foundation upon 
which it rests j die separation between content and consciousness 
which is usually made ts merely a HnguJsdc or, rather, a verbal one, 
but actually has no real existence. The “ whatness " of any object 
of experience obtains its form only from the content of the experiencer"s 
consciousness, and the objects of experience suie the raw experiences 
which are worked up by the content of consciousness into more or 
less definite forms. It depends, therefore, entirely upon the nature 
of the consciousness, upon its content, which we may collectively 
speak of as the mind, wbat particular form the data of experience will 
be given by any particular individual. It so happens, as we have 
already had occasion to show in an earlier chapter, that the nature 
of the mind is something which is culturally determined, and since 
the meaning widi whidi invest the data of experience is inevitably 
1 Ibiii «tbhL 



a function of our minds, it is obvious diat what experience m, for the 
practical purposes of living, is somediing which is culttually determinetl 
also. Experience is nevir sometliing that is merely given, but rather 
something to which something else is given. Homo additus naOirae. 
Tiius, the " cumulative experience ” of which Read speaks can only 
be interpreted to mean the traditionailzadon of the meanings which 
the past has bestowed, and the present maintains, upon the raw data 
provided by the phenomcnatistic world in which the individual lives. 
But no social individual lives in a purely phenomenalistic world, 
indeed, he lives only in a social world and his knowledge of what 
the world of nature is he learns not irom nature itself but from the 
culture in which he lives. Among savages, apart &om what the existing 
body of communal knowledge has to say about the processes of the 
natural world, the phenomena of natuie are taken very much 
for granted, hardly any distinction, indeed, being reco^iized between 
what is purely social and wliat purely natural. As far as we know the 
equivalents of these concepts do not even exist among the Australians, 
indeed, the world of the Australian would seem to consist of but a 
single continuum uncomplicated by such abstractions as the distinc¬ 
tion between wliat is cultural and what ts natural. For the Australian 
all things are natural, hut only in the sense of being socially so, the 
converse, however, is not true. If, then, the world of the Australian 
is the world which his culture makes, what point can there be to speak- 
ing of his “ cumulative experience age after age " ? His cumuladve 
experience is exactly what his culture determines it to be, with all the 
authority that age after age can bestow upon that determination. 

Disregarding, however, the authority of tradition and the teachings 
of society, what can be die meaning of the statement that " The 
knowledge of paternity does not depend on deliberate obsenation, 
but upon cumulative experience age after age ” ? If the knowledge 
of paternity does not depend upon observation, how' then can anything 
be experienced which would lead to such knowledge, for ohservation 
is a situ qua non of the kind of experience that leads to knowledge 
Read believes that in the course of ages it would become apparent that 
intercourse and pregnancy were somehow related as a result of this 
cumulative experience. This, of course, is a very naive assumption 
and certainty an entirely gratuitous one, for the experience of die ages 
consists in no more than the experience of particular generations 
extended over an arbioary period of time during wliich many such 
genetadons have come, experioiced, and gone. But what has been 


experienced, the data of experience, has been much the same in each 
generation. Isolated peoples, remo’i'ed from contact with foreign 
peoples and cultures, and given a fairly consistent environment, are 
generally characterized by a very considerable cultural stability, and 
though in the course of time ch^ges do take place, these will on the 
wiiole occur only very gradually. To a certain extent the desire to 
a^unt for the origin of themselves upon this earth served to give 
rise among the Austiaiians to tlieir peculiar system of beliefs. Once 
established these beliefs would be transmitted, from generation to 
generation, as the official doctrines of the tribe, the official view of the 
world and of man’s place in it. Such doctrines, of course, represent the 
syncretic expression of the tribal interpretation of experience. And 
so long as these doctrines exist, cumulative experience means no more 
than the repetition of the same experiences in each generation. As 
soon as an altogeilier new experience crosses the horizon of such 
a culture, tt is immediately made to fit into the existing system of 
beliefs. For example, the appearance of the white man in Austialia 
in no way disturb^ orthodox beliefs, for when one bums die dead 
body of a member of ffie tribe, or leaves his body exposed In the open 
for some time, the skin becomes depigmented and turns white, thus, 
widi die assistance of the belief in incarnation, not the slightest 
difficulty w;^ presented in assuming that white men were merely 
die incarnations of some deceased members of the tribe, being 
peculiar only in having retained the pigmentless chaiacter of the skin 
whidi manifests itself after death. Again, tlie light skin of balf-caste 
diildren is, as u’e Iiave seen, assumed to be due to the mother's con* 

sumption of the white fiour obtained from the missionaries or 

Under the circumstances w'C have already discussed above there can 
be nothing in the experience of each generation whidi would render 
« necess^ that one such genemtion should recognize the true nature 
of what is in the first place ahj^mally obscure and, in the second place, 
is most thoroughly and satisfactorily accounted for not only by 
^sti^ knowledge, bur by the everyday actual experience of the 
individual. Indeed, if cumulative experience plays any part here at ail, 
and unquesrionahly it does, it is to conserve the ttaditional beliefs and 
to render them incontestable and invadnerable. 

Let it not be forgotten here tliac the conclusion that intercourse is 
associated with pregnancy was provided wiili an irrefutable basis 
only in the middle of the last century, when Newport discovered and 


described the phenomenon of the penettadon of the ovrnn by the 
spenoatozoon under its own movements^^ and that until that time 
almost any theory, no matter how fantastic, concerning the process 
of comii^ into being, was sure of gaining a hearing.^ 

flg-L Ochrfr drvwiflg of mm,, AOrth otWicIthun 

Rivn'i North^zn Territory ( X Bklcckiw, 

TA# Aumdim 

y OmroDiil dfswifig of a KuJutdiia mn mmed 
M^ngdfivpungja duiai^ ^ wred fire uiih xa 
mccstal rexn^ PigcoTk Hde^ Vtctdiia Rjver 
(X Ji)^ Tcfecif^ (Jphu Eueiiciw, TJ^ AuM^M£^m 

’ The diBcovery ms Eoeiie cm lllh ApTfl^ Sec F. J. Cok^ T^eoekf e/ 
Qifoi^ 1J4* 

* C« B. Aldrkh tmie&: " Wlieir >one comtA to dtli^ of the discovery dut do woman 
binh to n ^iIEd when ihe hn bcefl imtnrcgnafed ^ ■ wmwn u truly a Hiumph of 
idottiik DhKfWdon-^ 7 m ptfimthr Mind ond Gyth^adtn^ LdwIoCt 

Chajpwr XI 



Mode$c Dcubi is caU*d 

The Beacon of the wisc^ the lent ihai ^jarches 
To th’ botiome of the worn/* 

Hector^ Tr^tyhs^nJ Crwidity Shak espeaae. 

PERHAi-s the most disconcerting piece of evidence with which the 
student of tlie procreative beliefs of the Australian must reckon is 
the evidence that has at various times been adduced, generally quite 
unrelated to any discussion of the procreative beliefs of the Australians, 
of the existence of phallic cults and ceremonies in Australia. So 
strongly contrary does this evidence appear to tlie generally accepted 
belief that the Australians are ignorant of the facts of conception, 
that Basedow, who was acquainted wiili a large variety of Australian 
tribes, and who for many years was a firm believer tn the reality of the 
Australian nescience of the nature of procreation as a fact, was in 
the face of this evidence forced to adopt the opposite view. Since 
his is at Once the most exhaustive as well as the most cogent account 
of the Subject it will be given here in his own words. 

Basedow writes One often reads, and I was under the same 
impression myself until I became better acquainted with the tribes, 
that the Australian natives do not connect the knowledge of concep¬ 
tion with any tntercomse which might have taken place between 
the sexes. This 1 find fs not altogether correct, although usually 
the younger people are kept in complete ignorance on the subject. 
No doubt strangers are treated similarly when they put any pertinent 
questions to the old men on matters of sex. The old men believe in 
duality of human creation, the spiritual and the material; sexuality 
is regarded as the stimulus of corporeal reproduction, but the spirit 
quantity is deriv^ through mystic and absttan influences controlled 
by a totem -spirit or Kiuminja, Under these circumstances, it is 
not surprising to note that the ceremonies of the phallus are transacted 
principally by die old men of the tribe who aim at the rejuvenation 
of their waning powers. 




“It is interesting to see the old tn«i preparing for a ceremony 
which is to he dedicated to a Knaninja or Spirit of Ses^ because they 
all endeavour to conceal the white hairs of their heards by nibbing 
charcoal into them. The bark of the cork tree (^Naha) is used for the 
purpose j pieties of St arc charred, crushed between the palms, and 
applied whtMO needed. It is astounding what a dtflcrcnce this process 
makes to the appearance, and some of the old grey-beaids really 
look as though they had been made twenty years younger by 

“ In the eastern MacDonell Ranges stands a cylindro-conical 
monolith whose origin is believed to be as follows; Many generations 
ago, the paternal ancestors of the Armindta ^i-alked from a district 
situated, as near as one can gatlier, somewhere in the neighbourhood 
of Ediowje; they were known as the' Knkadja' and w'ere characterized 
by the enormous dimensions of their organs. These old men or 
Tji^ of the tribe migrated northwards to beyond Tennant’s Creek 
and settled in the productive AUaia* country which surrounds the 
Victoria River, In that same district one finds, even at die present day, 
cave drawings of human beings with the anatomical peculiarities 
referred to (Fig. a). At a later time, the head-man of the Kukadja, 
named ^ Knurrlga 7 jU&a\ returned southwards to the MacDonell 
Ranges. Whde roaming the hills, he espied two young women sitting 
on the side of a tpiartTite cliff, and without deliberation began to 
approach them. He was in the act of making lewd overtures to them 
when the guardian of the girls, a crow ancestor, caught sight of him 
and hurled a boomerang at him. TTie missile struck the great man and 
cut off the prominent portion of his body, w'hich in failing stuck 
erect in the ground. The force of the Impact was so great that the 
man bounced off the eartii and fell somewhere near Barrow’s Creek. 
He bled so profusely that a clay-pan soon filled with his blood. Tlius 
his followers found him, and overcome with sorrow they opened the 
veins of their arms to mix their blood with his. Then all the members 
of the party jumped into the pool and disappeared for ever. 

" The severed portion of the old man’s body, however, remained 
just where tt fell and turned to stone. It has long been known as 
‘ Kmrriga Tjilha Purra ’. 

“ The two young women can also sail be detected in the cliff as 
prominent rock formations. 

The stone has been protected fay the tribe as long as the old men 
can remember, because they realize that it contains an inexhaustible 


number of tribes-people. These mythic, fcetal elements are genctaJly 
recognised to exist in certain objects of phallic significance, and are 
called * rattappa. The medicine men maintain that they can at rim>*5 
see the dormant living mtter in die stone. It is on that account that 
it is regarded as sacred, and ev«y now and then very secret and 
worshipful ceremonies are transacted near its base, the main objects 
of which are to muldply the future membership of the tribe and to 
preserve the sexual powers of the old men. 

" The TjUbd Purra naturally figures prominently in some of their 
ceremonies. In fact, it is repr^uced and worn upon the head of the 
leading man during the functions. The sacred elBgy consists of an 
upright column, about 2 feet high, composed of a stout bundle 
of glass stalks, in the centre of which the tjuringa is contained. It is 
decorated with alternating bands of red and white down tliroughout 
its length. This upright column represents the * TjilBa ‘ or revered 
ancestor whose spirit is invoked to * sit * in the tjuringa; at the top 
of it a plume of wiry emu feathers, Tt ell powdered with charcoal 
(* tmjia ') to give it a youthful appearance, takes the place of the for* 
bear’s hair and beard. Standing at an angle with the central column, 
a similar though slightly smaller structure is intended for the ‘ Purra ’ 
or phallus; it carries a plume of white cockatoo feathers at i ts end to 
represent the glans. 

” A landmark, of similar significance as the Tjilba Purra of the 
Arunndta, exists on the Roper River in the Northern Territory; 
it is a pillar of sandstone known as * Waroka Waiaka is also the 
name of the great Spirit Fatlrer of the tribe. In very early times this 
man came to earth in a semt-human form, and made die country 
abound in game, animals, birds, and fish. Then he found a woman 
on the shores of Carpentaria Gulf who remained with him as his wife. 
Many children came of the union; and Waraka's mate has since 
been looked upon as the mother of the tribe. The woman’s name was 
’ ImBoromha \ and to this day the tribe takes its name after lier, Waraka 
had an enormous sex characteristic which was so ponderous that he 
was obliged to carry it over one of his shoulders. Eventually the oigan 
became so huge that Waraka collapsed and sank into the earth. His 
burden remained, but turned to stone, and is now looked upon by 
the local natives as the great symbol of Nature’s generative power which 
first produced their game supplies and then the original children of 
the tribe ; It Is revered accordingly. 

“ The Kukata have a somewhat similar legend of the origin of a 

28 o 


stone of phallic significance, the name of the possessor of the large 
organ being * Kalujuiinti \ 

'* In the extreme north-western comer of Austtalia, in the Gleneig 
River district, the naturaJ stone is replaced by an antfidally constnicted 
one which possesses the true shape of a phallus. The stone is about 
3 feet long and stands in a vertical position in the ground com¬ 
manding a ceremonial cirque as if intended to watch over the proceed¬ 
ings which are instituted there. 

"On the shores of Cambridge Gulf, a grotesque dance is performed 
by the men, during which a flat, wooden phallus is used, shaped almost 
like a ijuiiugs, about 17 inches long and 3 inches wide at the 
middle. It is painted in alternate bands of red and black, running 
transversely across the two flat surfaces, which are, in addition, 
decorated with the carved representations of the male oigan of genera¬ 
tion. The dance takes place at night and is too intricate to describe 
in detail. It is introduced by the following chant:— 

“ la,ja~la-la- 
Wa, /a, gorl wau I 

“ Tlie verse is repeated three times, and then the performers stamp 
the ground with their feet, about ten limes in quick succession, the 
action suggesting running without making headway. Presently, 
and with one accord, the whole party falls upon the knees. Tlie 
phallus b seized with both hands and held against the pubes in an 
erect position, and so the party slides over the ground from left to 
right, and again from right to left. An unmistakably suggestive 
act follows, when the men jerk their shoulders and lean forward to a 
semi-prone position, after the fashion generally adopted by the 
aborigines. Still upon their knees, the men lay the phallus upon the 
ground and shuffle sideways, hither and thither, but always facing 
die object in front of them. After several repetitions of thb interact, 
the performers rabe their hands, in which tliey are now carrying 
small tufts of grass or twigs, and flourish them above their heads, 
while their bodies remain prone. Then follow some very lithe, but 
at the same time very significant, movements of the hips. Wh™, 
presently, tliey rise to iheir feet again, the phallus is once more re¬ 
claimed and held with one of the pointed ends against the pubes in 
an erect position. A wild dance concludes the ceremony, during 
which the men become intensely agitated and emotion^; very 


often, indeed, their e»:itement verging on hysterica] sensibility, 
evokes an orgasm., , , 

** The Dieii have a number of long cylindro-conJca] stones in their 
possession which are supposed to temporarily contain the male element 
of certain ancestral spirits now residing in the sky as their recognized 
deities. These are on an average about inches long and indies 
in diameter, circular in transverse section, and pointed at one 
end. The oid men have these phallus in tlieir custody, and are 
very unwilling to let them ^t out of their reach because they believe 
that the virility of the tribe is dependent upon the preservation of the 
stones. Should one of them be accidentally lost, the mishap is calculated 
as little short of disastrous j should a stranger find the object, the 
old men maintain that evil will come to him, and if he keeps it he will 
die- The sione is used principally during religious ceremonies con¬ 
nected with sex-woiship, but it is also produced during some of the 
initi^ion practices. After he has submitted to the ‘gruesome rite* 
in his initiation, a novice is retpiired to carry the stone, firmly pressing 
it against his body with his arm, until he is overcome by the eyh anstion 
occasioned by the painful ordeal. By so doing, the young fellow's 
wrile powers are supposed to receive considerable stimulation through 
tlie agency of the phallus he carries. Tlie object drops into the sand 
b^ide him; and, when he recovers, he returns to the men’s camp 
without it. Two of the oid men thereupon track the lad's outw’ard 
course and recover their sacred stone to take it back to a place of 

“ The tribes inhabiring the great stony plains of central Australia 
and Aosc adjoining them, and abo the Victoria Desert trib«, are 
occasionally in j^session of nodular ironstone and concretionary 
sandstone fo^tions, of the * natural &eak ’ kind, which simulate the 
tnemhrum virile to a marked degree. These ate believed to have been 
left by a deified ancestor and are kept by the old men as a sacred 
l^cy ^ they answer in every way the purpose of an arriftcially 
constructed phallus. 

'■ Closely allied to the phallic significance given to natural pillars 
of rock and smaller imitative specimens is the idea that natural clefts 
in the earth represent a female character. Killalpaninna is the name of a 
small lake lying about yo miles east of Lake Eyre in central Australia, 
it being the contracted form of the two words ‘ hlla ’ and ‘ wtdpatma \ 
which stand for that typical of woman. It Is the conviction of the Dieri 
tribe that wlien a person, especially one stricken with senility or 


enfeebled by sickness^ at a certain hour passes from ihe water of the 
lake into the open, and is not seen doing so by the women, he is re¬ 
born and rejuvenated, or at any rate cured of his decrepjtness> In 
this sense Killa-Wulpanna has from time immemorial been an 
abori^nal Mecca, to which pilgrims have found their way from far 
and wide to seek remedy and solace at the great matronal chasm 
w'hich has such divine powers to impart. This fact is of particular 
interest, since a native, generally speaking, is superstitious about 
entering any strange water, and docs so very reluctantly, thinking 
that, by doing so, the evil spirit will foist disease upon him through 
the medium of the water. 

“ A singular stone exists in Ellery Creek, a short distance south of 
the MacDonell Ranges, which is called ‘ ArrdmoBma It was at this 
place that a tribal ancestor, named ' Rnkhitta a long tinte ago met 
a young ‘ InJonda^ and captured her. The stone at the present 
time shows a cleft and two depressions which are supposed to be 
the knee-marks of Rukkutta. On account of the intimacy which took 
place, the stone is believed to be teeming with rattappa^ which entered 
by the cleft. The ancient Arunndta men used to m^e this stone the 
object of special veneration, and during the sacred ceremonies whidi 
took place at the spot, they used to produce carved slabs of stone which 
they called ‘ Altjerra Kutta ’ (i.e. the Supreme Spirit's Stone or 
Tjurings), These inspirited slabs of stone, being of the two sexes, 
were flowed to repeat the indulgent act of Rukkutta and Indoria, 
while the natives themselves rubbed red ochre over the sacred stone 
of Arrolmolbma, and engaged in devotion. The act of rubbing red 
ochre over the surface of die stone was supposed to incite the sexual 
instinct of the men and to vivify the virile principle of tlie tribe. By 
this performance the men believed they took from the pregnant 
rock the embryonic rattappa which in the invisible form entered the 
wombs of the gins and subsequently came to the world as the young 
representatives of the tribe they called ' kadji kttrreka \ 

“ Among the cave drawings of Australia, designs are here and there 
met with depicting scenes from ceremonies having to do with phaUidsm 
and other sex-worship. In the picture reproduced from the Pigeon- 
Hole district on the Victoria River (Fig. 3), one notices a man of the 
Kukadja type who was named * Mtmgarraptmgja * in the act of dancing 
around a sacred fire with an ancestral female. The organ of Kukadja, 
it will be observed, passes into the flame, whence a column of smoke 
is rising to find its way to the body of a ^ which is drawn in outline 


above the dancers. Here we have the representation of a traditiona] 
ceremony associating the Kukadja's phallus with the impregnating 
medium supplied by fire, which, we have already learned, may be 
looked for in the column of smoke.” ^ 

Tile fact that Spencer and Gillen, Howitt, Strchlow, and by fer 
tlie majority of other field invstigators of the tribes of Australia 
have failed to remark upon the existence of such phenomena as Basedow 
lias described in the foregoing passages is not a little strange, altJiough 
Spencer and Gillen did make the statement that ” It is doubtful how 
far phallic worship can be said to exist amongst the Aiistradian 
Mtives”.* Basedow's positive statements, however, are more 
important than the inexplicable silence of these investigators, more^ 
over, Basedow’s statements are strongly supported by the independent 
observations of Etlieridge,® and in recent years of Mjoberg^ who 
reported the existence of similar phallic cults tn Australia. Roheim 
who has within recent years discussed the evidence from the psycho¬ 
analytic standpoint is convinced that the Churinga are to be regarded 
as phaUic symbols,® 

We may now well inquire as to what the significance of all this 
evidence is for our understanding of the procreative beliefs of the 
Australians in general and the Amnta in particular. 

In the first place we may note Basedow’s agreement with Strelitow 
and with Roheim that the older men are aware of the nature of con¬ 
ception bm that they keep this knowledge from the younger people. 
Basedow’s statement that among the old men sexuality is regarded as 
the stimulus of corporeal reproduction, apparently refers specifically 
to the ^nta, and clearly it means that the Amnta believe that inter- 
ooiirse is essential before a child can come into being. More panicuiarly 
it is clearly intended to mean that intercourse is regarded as the 
stimulus which leads to physical being. What the term “ stimulus ” 
may mean here is not altogether clear, but I suspect that the term 
reflects some uncertainty in Basedow’s mind as to the real facts. 
The nullifications in Basedow’s statement that the idea that the 


7^ TWfiitr dinrJVf/lOI. 

• ^ EthcridB^ 1^, TAt CyliiHAtMHiniail W Cenaa* Stau fmplfmmU of Wtttm JVW 

Guinea," AuitraSan Muiam, 

NoniBMtrJMai." ^rrMv. f, sir. 

Lonifoo, ifltSi “ P.yd»-AiEd]fsit afP^imiiivc CLiInjnil 
Types, /fwfwnr, /obiTi. nil, t 


Australian natives do not connect intercourse with conception " is 
not altogether correct possibly, refers to the fact that the ignorance 
of the relationship holds tmCj according to Basedow, only for the 
younger people, though it may be intended to mean that the ignorance 
holds true for the tribe as a w'hole with the exception of the stnall 
number of old men who are the possessors of all esoteric knowledge 
and who know the '* truthbut keep it hidden from the younger 
merahers of the tribe. It is to the old men that Basedow specifically 
refers as believing " in the duality of the human creation, the spiritual 
and the tnaterial ”, and who regard sexuality as the stimulus of 
corporeal reproduction, the rest of the tribe, we may assume, remains 
ignorant of such ideas. Basedow's use of the word “ stimulus ” must 
in this connection he interpreted to mean that intercourse excites 
to activity all those processes which result in the development of a 
human bring—minus a spiritual part, the spirit part being derived 
from the spirit abode in the manner with which we are already familiar. 
This interpretation of Basedow’s statement, which I think faithfully 
refiecis his meaning, is identical with Lang’s interpretation of the 
evidence, for Lang, it will be recalled, considered that die native is 
aware that intercourse plays a physical part in the generation of a 
spirit incarnated, but that the material act was alone insuffirient to 
effect the incarnation of the spirit or soul, and that therefore it had 
to come from without. 

We have already seen that Spencer and Gillen, Strehlow, and Fry, 
had received statements to the effect that Intercourse assisted or was 
necessary to the entrance of a spirit child into a woman. These state¬ 
ments, we endeavoured to show, did not really indicate a knowledge 
of the relationship between intercourse and pregnancy, but on the 
other hand stmply proved that intercourse was regarded among die 
peoples holding these views, as a condition and not as the cause of 
pregnancy. We may, however, recall in the present connection the 
account ^ven by Schulze for the Middle Finke River Aninta, in which 
it was stated that “ the souls of the infants dwell in the foliage of 
trees, and that they are carried there by the good mountain spirits, 
manjiraka^ and their wives, meihata. The nearest tree to a woman 
when she feels the first pain of parturition she calls njirra, as they are 
under the impression that the guruima, or soul, has entered from it 
into the child Such a belief would suggest that the individual 
obtains only his spirit part from a totem abode and his body from 

^ I- Schubt^ LoCh anciy JO. 


some other and immediately anterior source—a view of the matter, 
which it will be tecaJled, characterizes the beliefs of the north 
Queensland natives. Now, from Spencer and Gillen’s account of the 
native description of the spirit child, its colour, form, and various 
characters, and of its entry as such into the woman, it is quite clear 
that it enters both as a body aqid as a soul, but chiefly as a soul which 
develops its characteristic body subsequent to its entry into the 
i»'oman’s womb. Strehlow’s account of die Central Australian s 
beliefs in this connecdon, tn spite of apparent disagreements;, may 
essentially be reduced to the same system of ideas. And as far as 
Schulze’s statements are concerned there is no reason to assume that 
they stand in any way opposed to those of either Spencer and GiUen 
or of S trehlow. Wliat in each case enters the woman is, part and parcel, 
soul and body, derived from an ancestral source. Such a view is, 
however, diorougbly opposed to that credited to the Amnta by 
Basedow, who asserts that the former represents the exoteric doctrine 
of the tribe alone, whilst the esoteric beliefs make full recognition 
of the fact that intercourse is the responsible agent in producing 

It may at once be said diat the existence of phallic cults ui any 
group whatsoever does not signify that such groups necessarily 
possess a knowledge of the relationship which exists tetween inter¬ 
course and pregnancy,^ This should be obvious, yet, strangely enough, 
Basedow at once hastens to the conclusion that such cults constitute 
prvTta fack evidence of such knowledge. Since the phallus is a great 
source of pleasure to the savage it is of small wonder that he performs 
ceremonies in celebration of it, and with the object of preserving its 
powers of pleasure-giviiig benefits. As Aldricli has said, “ TIve 
primitive sees in sex an immediate personal satisfaction and an 
immediate matter of religious importtmcei” ^ In this connection It is of 
interest to note that it is only die old men who take part in these 
ceremonies, for one of the chief objects of these ceremonies would 
appear to be the rejuvenation of their waning pow'ers. This seems to 
be the obvious and chief reason why “ the ceremonies of the phallus 
are transmitted principally by the old men of the Bribe”, and not, 
as Basedow suggests, because they alone are aware of the meaning 
of sexuality. 

* Ib New Cuba, f« eoflipw, amang the bnwl of tbe Septk Rlvei '* ijulllc lymbok aic 
10 be regoiidf^ nori^ply at Wmbeb of iht flMibl organ, tior it lymbols of fmiBty, but 
rather as qnnbaU of rile whoie promt cdMi ofthe eulei - G. Batesoft, Mnwi, CimtnrijK 
•SJ*. 'SJ- * C a. Aldi^ toe, dt, lit- 


In other words, the sex totems identified with the various phallic^ 
shaped monoliths described by Basedow are the abode of the powers 
of sexual strength, or of ancestors, who were notable for their sexual 
prowess as is evident &om the enormous dimensions of the organs 
they are believed to have possessed. These ancestors, having entered 
tlie earth at such spots as are now marked by the presence of their 
organs, are a source of the production of sexual strength in others. 
Actually, it is quite clear from Basedow's account that there are no 
special sex totems, but that every toremic abode which is associated 
with the ancestors of the large sexual organs is especially associated 
witli the power of being able to produce sexual strength in others, 
as well 3 s itself carrying a supply of spirit children, in the same way 
as any other totem abode docs. 

The TjUba Parra ceremonies of Basedow's account have been 
exhaustively described by Spencer and Gillen,^ who seem to have 
been quite unaware of any phallic significance which tltey may have 
possessed. Basedow's terms TjUha PuTra arc suggestive of something 
of the confusion into which one may fall during a cursory sojourn 
among a native people. Wliat Basedow b apparently referring to here 
are the great Achilpa ceremonies which take place during the Engwura 
celebrations, when the Parra (Basedow's /^urro), a mound on the 
ceremomal ground intended to represent the nack of the original 
Inkata of the Achilpa totem of the Alchera, figures largely during the 
ceremonies. What Basedow calls the TjUha Purra b actually known 
as a Nurtuajaf an upright pole especially made for use at sacred 
ceremonies, and said to be emblematic of the animal or plant giving 
its name to the totem in connection with which the ceremony is 
performed.® These Nurttmja are identical wnth those figured by 
Basedow in his book as TjUha Purra, Of course, these objects may 
be interpreted as having a phallic appearance (Plate III), but 
such an interpretation does not necessarily make them so. According 
to Spencer and Gillen’s detailed descriptions of these objects each 
of which represents “ for the time heing the animal or plant that gives 
its name to the totem",® each particular part of these Nurttirtja are 
intended to represent the various distinctive characters by which the 
animal or plant they are supposed to symbolize may be recognized. 
It should be pointed out here that it is only die northern Anmta 
who make these Nurrunja of diis peculiar shape, for among the 
Soudiem Anmta, and the tribes extending as far down to the south as 

» TA# jittina, 171-J03. ' Biid., faj. • IbiA, 74, n, 2. 


(d) J^urtuaja of the large |be^ XoUtm 
(From Spencer itiid Cillirti, TAt CourtBy of MiicmiUiin it. Co.) 

(A) A typica} Waier tnicm 

{From Spencer and CtUcDp Tta Aimis^ Cauricsy of Macmillan & Co.) 

IJ^tpr p. 


die coast at Port Lif\polii, an elongated pentagonal-shaped object 
call^ a JF vthtga taltes the place of the Nurtunja ; it would be difficult 
to imagine a phaUic significance for these objects (Plate TV), although 
it may be stated liere that Roheim has not failed to detect sudi a sexual 
^gnificance in these tFaninga. But given Rolieim’s methods I believe 
it is po^ible to detect any kind of significance in anything whatsoever. 
A specimen of Roheim’s discussion in the present connection may be 
given to ilJustiate to what lengths his method enables Iiim to go 
He writes ^ 

^^Tien we see that the abotigtrtals have certam more or less mystic 
decorations made for the ceremonies and discarded when this season 
K over* we shall he tempted to draw a parallel between these ceremonial 
decorations and the secondary sexual characters that the animals 
develop for, and discard after, the rutting season. If we accept the 
view that these omarnents are a sequel of the assertion of the natives 
that the onumenis represent a part of the body of their semi-human 
and half-animal ancestors^ ^ * - 

Tlie origin of the secondary sexual characters of animah cannot 
be ^d to be quire clear. At any rate, they stand in close connection 
to the primary ones, as they are absent in castrated animals^ Hesse 
inclines to the view that they are ** Ubetschussbildnngen aus den 
hrsparnissen bet der Btldung der Geschlechtsprodukte " ^ (Which is 
about as much as to say that they are phalloi coming out at the wrong 
place), iJie male giving less sexual energy out In the sexual act than dw 
female. If this Is true, then these crests, manes, and all sorts of orna¬ 
ments of Ae rutting season may be described as the pliysiological 
pre-formations of certain unconscious mechanisms tliat we are well 
acquainted with, or rather the displacement upwards is a ‘ psychical ’ 
survi , a reduced repetition of the biological process manifested 
in the secondary sex^haracters. The helmet of the ceremonies is a 
Chining transposed upwards and the Churinga itself a symbolical 
peni^That is why we see a return of tlic repressed elenienrs when 
the Chunn^ which radiates its creative laculuHi on the wearer 
ts put into the head-dress, and that is why even the latter development^ 
of t^s head-dress havT conserved tr^es of their ancient connection 
with the male organ of generation." * 

With respect of the existence of a rutting season in the progenitots 

’ r«7/fl5*Y, i 5»4, i. 


of man, 1 think that it has already been adet|uately shown how little 
such a point may be relied upon to assist such arguments as that of 
Roheim. It is, of course, perfectly incorrect to assume that such 
a pen'od ever eicisted at any time in the developmental history of raan, 
and it is greatly to be regretted that Roheim was unable to resist 
drawing his incredible parallel, for such reasoning is calculated to 
injure rather than to advance the valuable cause of the psj'cho- 
analyst in ethnological studies,^ 

'riiere can be no doubt that phallic ceremonies exist among many 
of the tribes of Australia, if not among all of them, but these have 
actually never been very satisfactorily described, so that it is not 
altogether a simple matter to judge of their nature. Such an account 
as Basedow's, however, renders it perfectly clear that as far as the 
Austmlians are concerned such plialUc ceremonies as he has described 
do not demonstrably involve any knowledgie, on tlte part of those w'ho 
participate in them, of the relationship between intercourse and child¬ 
birth. And this, of course, is tlie important point. Whether certain 
octemonial objects are to be regarded as of phallic significance or not 
is of purely secondary interest in this connection. 

The ph^c dance performed by the Cambridge Gulf tribe, described 
by Basedow, at the conclusion of which an orgasm is sometimes pro¬ 
duced in some of the men, w'ould suggest that this is a dance primarily 
performed for the production of a ritual son of sexual pleasure. It 
may even represent a form of ritualized quasi-masturbation, but what¬ 
ever die purpose of tliese dances may it is difficult to see what 
connection they can have widi the procreative beliefs of die partici¬ 

Basedow's account of the singular stone at Ellery Creek which is 
supposed TO mark the spot at which a tribal ancestor named Rtikutia 
met and captured a young ^ named Irtdonda^ is quite another matter. 
According to Basedow, it is believed by the natives that it b on account 
of the intimacy which took place at tliis spot diat the stone Is beUeved 
to be teeming with rattappa. There can be little doubt that by 
“ intimacy” Basedow here means intercourse, and since, as we know, 

The OM might flmiatt say die oiWiitic ctoesses, of MBoning uminiRod in 

Roheim't fomticiilfs tbe wle teDoon why I tuve not been [ibJ< to Euake lue ef it in thb 

itudy. It i tuppftsc, be far nm to my fympuhy ^-iih the p^ydi&sii^y^ 

mavcfnmtp <h: DO IHb: ibat my mm men t: upon RalwLm'i bexat is in im> m»ay zDoclvaied by ibc 
type of whidi piydia^iiulysis haa Rcocmliy hsd in cOEttEod. Thi»%-cry d^ana- 

pon wilt, no douhfp ha inknaeduidy intciprctcd by the cinhocbx^ u bfilting wiinef^ to an 
obviously sinister IntenDon I This ortiditn, it should be nudt quite Job dpi to 
H rji krirn 'K Later YdbubW reportii to whkh rdcfcnec has bm mule. 


of the 3nl toictn Aihtiitmkulia. 'Ihe lines of down represent 
JtMjis of wBiUk trees nmon^t which the wmen dig for acn*. The 
pcfformen ivpresenc wvmcn 

(From Spcqrer and Gillen, Tiv AfiuitA. CpuriecV of M^ciiullan 

& Co.) 

j fmix p. 




• r 








^ i irki* 


mteicours^ is considered necessary in order to prepare a woman thai slie 
may be ready for the entry of a spirit child into her there is noddng 
very remarkable in this statement, excepting, perliaps, the emphasis 
placed on the " intimacy ”, but this may probably be due to Basedow’s 
manner of making this point. Tliere are many Arunta myths which 
tell ot the capture of a gin by a tribal ancestor and of their living 
together, and of the subsetptent birth from these gins of many 
individuals, such, for example, as the important myth relating to 
Illapurinja and Lungarinia which has already been noted upon an 
earlier page in this book. Women arc generally necessary in order 
that 3 spirit child may undergo incarnation—it is not on account of 
any intimacy betw'een the sexes that children are bom, bur because a 
diild can only be bom through the medium of a woman. There can 
be little doubt diat Indorida ^ve birth to many children, and tliat 
these all entered the earth at a spot now mark^ by tlie “ sin^lar 
stone ” at Ellery Creek, and that that is the reason why it is now teem¬ 
ing with TattappQj and not because of any mdme^ dial occurred at 
that particular place. It should be remembered that everywhere in 
Australia chilndren are thought of only in relation to the family; 
a man or a woman alone does not have duldien-—tdiildren are simply 
not thought of in such non-familial contexts. In order that a child 
may come into being above all things else it must have a father, thus 
a woman can normally only give birth to children If she is married, 
and there can be litde question that it was because Rukutta captured 
and made Indorida his wife that spirit children were able to enter 
Indorida^ and that the place where cither the one or the other eventually 
went into the ground is now marked by a rattappa stone or totem 
abode. Intimacy is here of little slgnihcance for Basedow's point. 

In connection with the rubbing of the churinga, this is a well- 
known and frequently ptactised method of increastiig the virtue or 
power of the churinga. Rubbing of the chiuinga is much indulged 
in during the increase ceremonies,^ and also in connection with the 
emanation of spirit children from the rattappa stone* Roheim thinks 
that ” the rubbing is but a symbolic repetition of the friction produced 
by coitus ■'.* Actually the virtue that lies in any churinga is for the 
most part derived from the original ancestor with whom it was 
associated in the Alchera, and also, it should be noted, widi the virtues, 
to some extent, of those into whose possession it has at various times 
lemporanly piassed. It is to this ori^nal and accumulated virtue of 
‘ r\, J77. 1 Ibid,. T4l, JIOL * lax 


thfi churinga that an appeal is made during the increase ceremonies. 
Of itself there is no evidence that a churinga is able to give rise to 
another beings it merely represents the material abode of the spirit 
part of an individual^ and, as such, it is obviously of great importance 
in determinmg the totem of the individual as well as supplying him 
with a guardian spirit. For the period during which an individual is 
in actual possession of his churinga he is said to be endowed with the 
additional power which is normally lodged within it,^ whilst an old 
man suffering &om some illness will often scrape some dust from liis 
churinga and swallow it, believing that by so doing and by this means 
he will be strengthened.^ But there is no evidence of the existence 
of any procreative or reproductive powers on the part of the churing;a. 
I do not consider that die nibbing of a raiiappa stone can be likened 
to an act of coitus. It would appear, however, that in some way 
rubbing excites to activity the power within the objects so rubbed, 
but I cannot, I must repear, see that this is to be regarded as similar 
in any way to an act of coitus. 

The cavc'drawings from the Pigeon-Hole district on the Victoria 
River depicting “ scenes &om ceremonies having to do with phaHidsm 
and other sex-worshjp are also, T think, capable of bearing 
an interpretation other than that which Basedow has given tliem. 
And here we may appropriately voice an objection against the use of 
such terms as ** sex-worship In none of the phallic ceremonies 
described by Basedow is there any evidence of ‘’worship” of any kind. 
Indeed, as far as the available evidence permits us to speak with any 
definiteness upon the matter, there is no evidence anywhere In Austral^ 
that the natives behave at any time, whether ceremonially or other¬ 
wise, as if they worshipped anything. Certainly they do not worship 
their eponymous ancestors; they hold ihem in great respect, and 
ceremonially commemorate tlieir lives and deeds, but sudi ceremonial 
observances do not constitute what is generally understood by the 
term “ wcitship Likewise, the phallic practices of the Australians 
repiesent merely ritual ways of obtaining sexual power, such practices 
do not constitute the worship of the sources of that power, 

F^g. y shows a representation of a tribal ancestor of the type 
diaractertzcd by a brge copulatory organ dancing with an ancestral 
female around what appears to be a fire from which rises a column 
of flame or smoke which proceeds directly into the vagina or perineal 
region of the gin. Into the base of the column is projected the large 

* ^ l+L I Ibid, 



oigan of Mongarrapimgja. This drawing Basedow loots upon as 
*■ a representation of a iradhional ceremony associating the Kukadja’s 
phallus with the impregnating medium supplied by fire 

In none of the ceTcmonies which Basedow reports, however, is 
fire or smoke associated with the idea of an impregruiting medium. 
^Phat Basedow liad in mind here is the '* smoking ceremony to 
whiclt the prl is usually stib|ected during the process of her inidadon 
among the Larrekiya and the Wogaii, This ceremony consists in 
allowing the smoke of a dampened fire to play upon the genitalia of 
die novice until they have been thoroughly permeated by it. Following 
this ceremony the is led away into the hush by the old women, 
there to stay for some daj-s, during which time she is forbidden to 
partake of certain foods.® There is nothing in this ceremony nor 
in the account which Basedow gives of it, which would indicate that 
tt IS in any way connected with the alleged impregnating acdoij of 
Smoke. ^The girl, it should be remembered, is as yet unmarried, 
and at this stage of her inidadon has not yet undergone die operadon 
of si^incision which will, among these tribes, render her " marriage¬ 
able We may therefore, more properly, I think, regard the smoldng 
^mony as a preparatory treatment prior to the operadon of sub- 
incision. It should be r^iaJled in this connection tliat immediately 
following the ceremonies of die circumcision and subindsion the 
male novice is n^de to hold his mutilated organ over a similar smoking 
fire, the smoke it is believed possessing the property of being able to 
relieve the pain, the stnoke also being possessed of curative po^-^rs 
assists the wound to heal. It js possible that the female smoking 
ceremony is similarly merely calculated to assist In reducing the pain 
at the ceremony of subincision which b to follow it. 

Basedow has, however, described a myth among the Wogait which 
may throw some light upon die meaning of the Mongarrapungja 
drawing. According to dib myth and to Wogait belief, it is believed 
^t their evil spirit ” makes a big fire and from this he takes an 
infant and places it, at night, in die womb of a luSra, who must 
eventually give birth to iL® Among die Arunta there is a myth g laring 
to the origin of fire which telU how it was first obtained by an Alchera 
euro man from the greatly elongated penis of a euro.-* Tlie Mongarra- 
pungia would seem to combine elements of both these myths. By a 

^ jbaifaHtin Aif/riginsl, aji. i ]5jy_ ^ 

T*’ Amtfiropologieal Nckcs on ibe WcHrni Gsatfd Tribes of iht NonJun 



stretch of the tmagination the drawing may^ then be taken to mean 
that the fire which is emanating from the ancestra] Mongarrapiingja’s 
penis, which carries with it or in it a spirit child, is entering tite body 
of a hthra. It is somewhat difficult, however, to account for the 
entry of the smoke into the genital orifice of the bthra^ for nowhere 
in Australia, curiously enough^ do children gmn entry through these 
parts, hut it may weU be that the artist intended it to be understood 
that the smoke was entering the hthra in the general region of the 
loins, wliatever his intention may have been, at least, the drawing 
would have been so understood by die nadves beholding it. Upon 
the above interpretation all dtat this representadon would mean 
is that Mongarmpungja is die source of spirit cliildren, just as the 
figure of Wondibtay in the north-west, is connected with the increase 
of spirit children,^ it would not mean, however, that such children 
are the result of an act of Intercourse, in reality the drawing supports 
the belief that children are definitely not the result of such an act, 
a point which I do not think U necessary to press any further. 

^ Stt pp. tqq. 

- 'P’'Area <t]adEdi) ova wliitb the rite of cubtneiBcn If {itaciiud. (After Bsiedov 

Chapter XII 



SuBiNCisroN ^ is a rite which, as we have already Leamc, is associated 
with the latter st^es of initiation. The rite is practised over a very 
great part of the Australian continent, its distribution being indicated 
in Fig All things considered the evidence would appear to point 
to an ori^nd centre of origin for this rite to a place somewhere in ilie 
centre of the continent, from whence it probably diifuscd* Such a 
stntcment, however, does not preclude the possibility of the rite 
having been introduced from some source outride Australia. Davidson 
lias studied the distribution of this trait in some detail,^ and Rivei^,^ 
and Basedow ^ have independently discussed its possible significance*^ 
In Central Australia, as well as in many other parts of Australia, 
the female as well as the male is subjected to a similar operacion at 
initiation. In the male the operation consists essentially in slitting 
open ihe whole or part of the penile urethra along the ventral or under 
surface of the penis. The initial cut is generally about an inch long, 
but this may subsequently be enlarged so tliat the incision extends 
from the glans to the root of the scroturn, in this way the whole 
of the under pan of the pemle urethra is laid open. The latter form 
of the operation is universal among the Central tribes. As one proceeds 
outwards the intensity of the operation becomes reduced, until we 
meet with forms which strongly resemhle the condition of hypospadias, 
that is, forms in which a small slit is made in the urethra towards either 
the glans or the scroTum, or both. In the female the operation takes 
a variety of forms ranging from extensive laceration of the vaginal 
walls and cHtoridcctomy to the slightest laceration of as much of the 
hymen as may be present* 

^ f Introdsion, 

EcfTitle of gru«ame rite. Smiths nw, axtificM hypofoidiBi 
UrtusUc, mikaf «C. 

* toe. eft 

• Lck. at, 

♦ IL “ Sutin^n ind Kifldmi Rite, of ibe Au]ti.luii Ahormwl" Au™. /tjy. 

AftiAfQp, /iMt., Loudon, tviiij [937^ ^ 

also N. ef C^ttraapE^^ ^dtimon md Loadbn^ 193^ 



As we have earlier in this b<xsk aJ ready had occasion to note, the 
operation of snbindsion has by many writers been regarded as a 
practice devised in order to insure the liniitadon of the numbers of 
the tribe. In other words, the practice is by these writers regarded as a 
contraceptive measure^ If this were so, it would very strongly suggest 
that the relationship between intercourse and pregnancy was, at least 
at the time when the operation was originally introduced, fully 
understood. Those who hold this belief are of the opinion that since 
the spermatic fluid normally passes ilnrough the urethra to the esnemal 
orifice to be received by the vagina, the object of slitting the urethra 
is to cause the loss, through the incised portion of the urethra, of the 
spetmatic fluid before It could reach the external orifice, so that 
during intercourse it w^ould thus fail to reach the vagina. 

To anyone acquainted with the anatomy and physiology of the 
male genital system this theory, and the alleged fects upon winch 
it is based, are so patently absurd, as liardly to deserve serious con¬ 
sideration. But since in the culture in which this booh is being wTiuen 
it is tlie custom to be least informed upon that subject which each 
individual should naturally know most about, namely the structure 
and functions of his own body, it will perforce be necessary to enter 
into a discussion of the perhaps not altogether patent absurdities of 
this theory. 

In the first place, it is to be noted that the force with which the 
spermatic fluid is launched into the penile urethra is very greaL^ 
As far as I know this force has never been measured, but it is, at any 
rate, well known that tlie ejaculated fluid is capable of proceeding in 
space for a distance of as much as 4 feet or more after ft has left the 
urethra, so that ei'en wfith a considcr^ly lacerated urethra it would be 
not unr^nabk to suppose that some of this fluid, if not die greater 
part of it, would be projected throu^ the external orifice. Certainly 
in that form of subincision which is most commonly practised in 
some parts of Western Austialta, in which a small incision is made 
in the uredira immediately anterior to the root of the scrotum, it is 
CKCe^ingly unlikely that any but a small quantity of tile spermatic 
fluid would find its way out through such an aperture, for the orifices 
of the ejaculatory ducts leading into the urethra are situated in the 
prostanc portion of the urethra, but a little distance posterior to 
the position which such an artificially made aperture would occupy* 

* Aj R^iblS^toiiKilKlHlci m«miiiiauffl*npenGw4iiiilU,ift “ThcumiiEd 



lE is certain^ therefore, tliat the force with which the spemiaric fluid 
is nornmlly pmjected tlirougJi the ejaculatory ducts into the urethra 
would carry, at least, the greater part of it past this aperture without 
causing more than a little of it, if any, to be expressed through the 
latter* Those students who have concerned themselves with this 
subject and who are under the impression that during coitus the 
spermatic fluid is ejected through this aperture extra vaginam ^ mu^t 
therefore be acquitted of any but the most innocent knowledge of the 

In tlte second place, even if the greater port of the spermatic fluid 
were to be ejcpelled through the lacerated urethra during coitus, 
certainly most, if not all, of it would enter into the vaginal canal. It 
should be recalled here that the \'3gina of die female has generally 
also been laoerated, so that it forms quite a commodious chamber, 
which, together wdilt the rhjthmical muscular conttacrions of its 
is capable of catching and holding all the spermatic fluid that is 
likely to escape in its proximity* Tlte pe^iar position adopted by the 
Australians during inicreourse is calculated to ensure thb* The 
position is thus described by Basedow:— 

“ When a couple is about to indulge, the female, by request or habit, 
always takes her position by lying with her back upon the ground. 
The man squats between her leg^, facing her, and Ufts her thighs 
on to his hips. Leaning forwards, he steadies his body widi tus knees 
on the ground and accommodates the parts with his hands* This 
accomplished^ the woman grips him tigjnly around his flanks or 
buttocks with her legs, while he pulls her towards his body with 
his hands around her neck or shoulders.” ^ 

As far as our present knowledge goes the evidence indicates that 
this method of coition is practised throughout Australia, in Central,^ 
Northern,^ and Nortli-western Australia,® and in Queensland.® Now, 
it should be qmte cleat that this method of copulation is of such a 
nature that hardly any of the ejaculated spermatic fluid could possibly 
escape readiing the parts for which it was iniended* Roth, for example, 
writes :—^ 

" The peculiar metliod of copulation in vogue throughout all these 
tribes does not prevent fertniiadon, notwithstanding the mutilation 

* Ss H. for BKHinpJc, vluj KCCpti dlii sa a £ic$ vEchotlt mjVing the fli^xcsi -aftfitrtpT 

to discover ivhtlhcr thcpc CW be any baas for jL New York, 1931^ 

■ IL Euedow. and Kindnd fUui of thf HAioirtilian AboriraDaL*^ JRJL., 

JviU. rjj. 

■ Loc- crL * Lot dL 

• W* E- Roih, StuScM, dt* 1897^ 175^ 

^ Ld& cLl 


of ihe male. The female lies on her hack oa the groimct, while the 
male with open thighs sits on his heels close in from : he now pulls 
her toward him, and raising her buttocks drags them into the 
inner aspects of his own thighs^ her legs clutching him round 
the Banks, while he arranges with his hand the toilette of her 
perineum and the insertion of his penis. In this position the vaginal 
orifice, already enlarged by the general laceration at initiation, is 
actually immediately beneath and in dose contact with the basal portion 
of the penis, and it is certainly therefore a matter of impossibility 
to conceive tlie semen as being discharged for the most part anywhere 
but into its proper quartet." ^ Basedow writes, " It is obvious tliat 
tliTou^i the position adopted by the man, a fair propottion of tlie 
rejected spermatic fluid will find its way into the vagina. In a state of 
erection, the mutilated organ becomes very wide} it is only natural 
that after the lower connecting wall of the uiethtal cmal lias been 
se’VTTed, tlie corpus ptnis in this condition spreads itself bterally. . . . 

Throu^ this bteral distension, the receiving vagina will gape 
mote than it would under normal conditions, and so there is greater 
facility for the fiuld to enter. And more, the tribes who practise 
suhincision in most cases also submit the female to a corresponding 
mutilation, which further dilates the passage," * 

Since, then, it must be very apparent to the Australian that the 
spermatic fluid enters the vagina of the female, it is hardly credible 
that w«e he aware of the nature of that fluid and were he atutious 
to avoid the consequences of its action, that lie would have continued 
the use, had it ever been devised for the purpose, of a method at once 
so extremely painful and so utterly ineffectual in attaining the object 
attributed to it by those in whose imagination alone it seems ever to 
have had such an object. In this connection I may quote Roth and 
Basedow once more. 

piere is no tradition whatever," writes Roth, " and 1 have made 
searching inquiry, to the effect that intiocision is any preventive to 
procration. Whenasked for an explanation, ortheorigin of the ordeal, 
the abonginals invariably plead ignorance or if pressed will answer 
somewlut to *e effect ^at' Muikari^ make him first time '. !n this 
connection n is mteiestmg to note that even the possibility of taking 
artificiai means to prevent fertilization, etc, (I am not speaking of 

• Mo&nti it ctic upetmtuni BUanKiHi v ji - 

pravd warn acsouni Tur; a R»od Boulia <U»trirt 

anyKiw. Lot. dt. « a good 


abortion), is app^ntly beyond theic comprchensjon: thus I have 
reports from station-managers who assure me that only with great 
difhculty could their ‘ boys ’ be made to understand, if they ever did, 
die object of spaying cattle.” ^ Roth lurther writes, ” So far as my 
own observations go, I can positively state that the singular form of 
penile urethrotomy we are discussing [subindsion] is not intended, 
nor anywhere regarded, by the Australian natives as a method of birth- 
control.” * 

Tile alleged object of the practice of subincision as a method devised 
to secure tlie maintenance of a proper balance between the food supply 
and the numbers of the population, represents a purely fanciful 
speculation. Unfortunately for this theory there are vast areas in 
Aus^ia whi<^ arc well capable of supporting a much larger pro¬ 
portion of individuals, under normal native conditions, than are ever 
found in such territories. Further, it should be noted that tlie rite of 
subincision is not limited to the hunger stricken desert region tribes 
but is found away to the north and to the south among the tribes 
where food is pientiful and the population nor, oftentimes, as large as 
among the desert tribes. Moreover, as Rotit pointed out many years 
ago for the tribes of notth-west Central Queensland,® the alleged 
object of this practice is already met by the universally strict observance 
of the laws regulating the sexual union of individuals belonging to 
one or other moiety, class, and totem, whereby the quantity of food 
amiable to parents is in no l^'ay immediately affected by the number 
of offspring. In all Australian tribes the consumption of every anicle 
of food is strictly regulated. Thus, tlie totem plant or animal of an 
individual is only on very rare occasions eaten by him, and then only 
very spangly. A man will eat articles of food which are forbidden 
to his wife, and old men w ill eat many articles of food which are entirely 
forbidd^ to the younger people. In this way a most efficient 
equihbrium between the food supply and the number of individuals 
m ffie group is maintained, although it could hardly be called an 
equitable distribution from our point of view; but diat is not the 

'^us, it would seem clear that we must look elsewhere for an 
explanation of the meaning of subindsion, tliat it has no connection 
with proerration or its control is abundantly dear, and with this 
demonstration theyȣj oiler^ one of the strongest of the evidences wliich 

‘ Lot. Dt., t7f. I n Dfjttlera;, loc at., ifo. * tuc. ct, 175. 


have been dted as tei^ding to disprove the Aiistralim nescience of the 
relationship berween intercourse and childbirth vanishes^ and with 
this statement we ntight well bring this discussion to a close* But 
tbis would not be tjuite satisfactoryj for until some endeavour has 
been made to show as positively as is under the circumstanoes possible 
what the significance of subindsion may most likely be the foregoing 
discussion might not altogether unjustly be criticized upon the ground 
that what the originators of the practice of subindsion originally 
thought its virtues to be may have had some relation to procreation 
of a nature which it is now not even possible to guess at* In the 
discussion which follows I propose to meet any such possible objec¬ 
tions, not by speculating upon the possible intentions of the originators 
of the practices bur by offering concrete evidence which would seem, 
to me to give this pracuoe a meaning which it may very probably 
have originally possessed. In such matters^ of course, there can be 
no question of proof or even of adequate demonstration; all tliat 
can at most be hoped for, or expected, is that the evidence produced 
be so pertinent and die conclusions to be deduced from it so cogent 
and Fcasonable as to afford the explanation thus obtained a degree of 
probability greater than that which any other explanation has hereto¬ 
fore succtided in achieving* 

It may at once be said that no theory which has thus far been 
advanced to account for the meaning of subincision has attained even 
to the status of a remote degree of probability* This has by no means 
been the fault of those students who have devoted their attention 
to the subject, for altliough a certam number of clues were available 
to them, there was nothing tn their nature which could have enabled 
anyone to single them out from the mass of bewildcringly complicated 
details associated with the practice, in prefexence to certain other 
possible details which invited attouion because of their similarity 
to those found in association with those non-Australian peoples 
among whom \>arious forms of subindsion is also practised* Among 
thcM pwples, chiefly the Fijians, the Tonga Islanders, and the natives 
of the Amazon Basin of Brazil, subindsion is carried out chiefly as a 
tbempeutic measure, and it is this possible therapeutic function of 
subindsion that was sei^d upon as u due to the significance of the 
practice among the Australians. Had the clue, which did not redly 
b^me available until March, 1935, been accessible to those students 
who Jtad concerned themselves wiiii this subject, there can be 
little doubt that the ^planation which is shortly to be offered 


for the significance of subincision would have been 
before now. 



The Sigmfctaice of Suhificisim, 

Among the Fijians tt is believed that subindsion is a preventive 
of many diseases, and that unless the individual submits himself to 
this operation he is likely to fall a victim to them. The operation is 
also perfomied as a remedy following the onset of any of these diseases. 
It is also said to remove the evil humours of the body. Performed 
as a cure for tetanus among the Tongans, it is also resorted to in a 
variant form by passing a reed tube into the urethra, in cases of general 
d^ihty, and in die operative form with the obj'ea of removing 
the blood from the abdominal cavity produced by wounds in the 
abdomen.^ From these practices and their various motives Rivets 
has concluded that " The operation acts as a counter-irritant and as 
a means of e^-acuating blood and possibly other bad humours, which 
™ believed to be producing or helping to produce disease ”.2 Hence 
me motive for the practice is obviously therapeutic, a conclusion 
witlj w^hich I thi^ there can be no disagreement* Among the Amazon 
Basin River natives of Brazil subincision is upon occasion practised 
for the purpose of removing the diminutive fish which sometimes 
gain entry into the urethra while the natives are bathing in the tn-ateis 
in which ^ese fish abound ^ Here, too, it is therefore evident, the 
operation is of purely a thetapeutic nature. 

Such fa(^ have led Basedow to suggest that the rite may have 
originated in Australia for similar reasons, since all sorts of crawling 
and burrowing crustaceans, insects, and other vermin, not to mention 
such things as splinters, burr, grass^seed, grit, and so forth, might 
^ily gam entry into the urethra among the Australians, Moreover, 
B^dow suggests that in tropical Australia, particularly in the north, 
where he^ tlunks that the practice may have originated, “acute 
inflammation of the prepuce, glans, and urethra might periodically 
have seriously affected many of the male members of the tribe.” « 

Such a view of the origin of subincision in Australia may, of course 
not be impossible, although it is somewhat strange that the operation 
is never practised for such reasons among the natives of the present 

J ; C^i«y 

I I?* ^ a/id LtmdOfij fe, 

5" p'**" StpiKft, ^3trirc4 CtfUTof iSfidp 

* SuMnaaiwfj cE£.^ 144-f* 


xitnCf but is instead regarded by thent as a puricly ceremonial tixe, 
RiverSj however^ has seen in the one factor common to liic Fijians, 
the Tongans, and the Australians^ namely die efFusion of blood, 
3 possible common origin for the practice. He offers two possible 
exptanadons for the appearance of subincision in islands so far removed 
from one another as AuscaUa and Fiji. One is that the procedure of 
subincision belongs to the culture of o people who once occupied 
the whole of this part of Australia, and that the practice has only 
persisted in Fiji and certain parts of Australia, undergoing divergent 
tines of evolution which, in one place or in hoth^ have greatly modified 
its original purpose^ Thus, it has become a purely dierapeude measure 
in one place, and a purely magko-religious rite in the othen In favour 
of this view Rivers states that very similar skulls occur in Vtti Levu 
and Australia, skulls which bear a close resemblance to the ancient 
Neandetdial skuUs of Europe, 

The alternative hypothesis is that some migrant people, who 
practiced suhincision, etdicr as a therapeutical praedee or a ceremonial 
rite introduced it into Fiji and Australia, and that in the process of 
assimilation into the indigenous culture of the two places, it has 
undergone such transformadon as now gives it its wholly different 
purpose in the two places, Tlie special form of this hypothesis which 
seems the most likely to be true b that a migrant people introduced 
the use of a ureihta seton as a remedy for disease, and that this has 
largely maintained its original purpose in Fiji, while in Australia it 

taken on the special magico-rcligious purpose, characteristic 
of the ahorigjnal Australian culture. Having wholly lost all trace of its 
d^rapeutic purposes, it has become a purely ceremoriia] rite. There 
still, howover, remains the effusion of blood, common to the two 
practices, which in the one place is the immediate motive, or one of 
the mod ves, of the therapeutic measure, while, in the other, it brings 
this nte into line with many other Australian rites in which the effusion 
of blood plays so important a parr,'* * 

NeithCT of hypotheses proposed by Rivers are tnherendy 
and indeed, his first hypothesis deHva some support 
(mm the ^ submCBioti has recently been described for two 
separate mbes tn the territory of New Guinea,® namely the Banaio 
of Guinea * and the inhabitants of Wogco, the most nortlierly 

^ Rrven^ Jot. dt, 6S-^ 

■ R. Tbunavil 4 , ^ Dk Grf^nik ikr 

Stuttgin, [fai; f. 


of tile Schouteu Islands. ^ What I believe to iie the most ptomising 
clue to tlie original meanirig of subincision is aJforded by the reasons 
which the natives give for the practice among tlie latter people. 

Against Rivera’s hypotheses many objections have been urged^ 
chief among which is the absence of subincision among the m-'^r g i naf 
tribes of Australia, and the great intenstEcarion of the practice as one 
proems towards tlie centre of the continent. The only marginal 
area in which subincision is found )S in the south, but no one lias 
so far been venturesome enough to suggsst that any foreign inHuences 
may have come through that part of Australia ! Davidson, who 
thinks that the evidence of distribution t$ entirely against Rivers’s 
first hypotliesis,*^ cannot agree that tlie form of urethrotomy 
practised among the Banars is akin to the foml of subincision 
practised among the Australians, but the diBerenoe in the manner in 
which the urethrotomy is produced does not, in my opinion, 
constitute a sufficient reason for denying a common ori^n for rliem. 
Had Davidson been willing to grant such a possibility he might not 
have argu^ as strongly as he has done against the possible intro¬ 
duction of subincision into Australia by way of Mebnesia in general 
and New Guinea in paniaiJar. The fact that subindsion is unknown in 
the witeme tionh including Melville and Bathurst Islands, I do not 
consider toconstituteany objection to such an hypothesis,for it is quite 
possible tliat the peoples of these territories may have otioe practised the 
rite, which may have been adopted from some migrant people, and 
subsequently discarded it. It must never be foigoiien that these 
tnarginal peoples have probably been subject to more than one influx 
of foreigners and, like the ruction of rocks to disturbing influences, 
their responses to these migrating influences must eitlier have been 
com/ormable or non*comformable, thus, wliai at one time tliey may 
Jiave adopted, they may well, at another time, have given up in favour 
of so me other practice. 

■These suggestions are all possibilidcs; whether any one of diem 
is true or not it is impossible 10 say, and I do not here propose to 
di^s the probabilities, but will at once proceed to the discussion of 
evidence for what I consider to be the most probable expbnadon of 
die meaning of subincision among the Ausmilians. 

The Otigta oj' SuSincistoii, 

Tlie element common to aQ forms of subindsion is the inevitable 
effusion of blood, niis, as we have seen, has already been noted by 


Rivers, but h seems never to have occumed to him that the peculiar 
means adopted to produce this eifosion, namely the charocteristic 
urediral incision of the male copulatory organ might m some way be 
connected with the analogous natural effusion of blood in the female 
from a similar source. Briefly, the suggestion here is that male sub- 
tncision or indslcn corresponds, or is intended to correspond, to 
female menstruation* Indeed, I may at once state the hypothesis 
which I am about to offer as an explanation of the probable origin 
of subincision m Australia; it is that ^incisiGn m tie rnule was 
ongiiujlly insdiuud in arJer io Catise t&e male to resemble the fimah 
wtik respect tc tie occastonal e^asian of HooJ wAick is naturalfy c&amctcr- 
isfic of tie and possiily also witA respect to prot/acing so/rtc 

fimlmiation in tie appearance of the male Organ- As it stands the theory 
must appear somewhat fantastic, I therefore hasten to produce the 
evidence upon which ft is based. 

We have already seen that among the Australians menstruation 
is not regarded as a periodic occurrence, hut that it is somewhat 
confusedly regarded as being a quite natural phenomenon though 
of irregular occurrence, or as due to a cold in the head or otlier illness, 
or to the scratching of a mama* Such are the beliefs regarding menstnia- 
tion that have been reported for the nAninta of the present dayA 
Among the Kakadu natives of the Northern Territory menstruation 
appears to be regarded as a normal occurrence whieft is said to proceed 
from something w-hich breaks near the heart and accumulates in die 
form of blood in a speaal inside, and it ts when tliis bag bursts 
that the blood flows.^ Tlic tabus which in Australia are ptaced upon 
menstruating women and mensmial blood indicate that menstruation 
has always been regarded as a phenomenon to which some degree of 
mystery attaches. Menstrua] blood is everywhere in Australia regarded 
as unclean and as an element of danger. Menstmating women must at 
such times everywhere be avoided, until they have got this dangerous 
element out of tlieir bodies and am on^ more dean* It is the menstrual 
blot^ which is a sign of the undeanness of the woman, and it is not 
undl tliis noxious matter has been completely voided that the woman 
IS thoroughly clean again. Menstrual blood is a noxious humour of 
mystenously strong potency, this much is clear. Is it not pos^^lble* 
ore, t t judging this to be the natuml or normal or the most 
efHcient way of getting rid of the bad “humours" within one^s 

B. SpetKier, Nam TfUa il* NtriAm Tvjitay jicl 


body,' some early aboHgiites upon the principle of like producing like, 
essayed to produce an antiidal nienstTuation within their own bodies, 
and seeing that the blood came in die female from the vulva, what more 
natural than to make it likewise come from the organ in one’s 
own body tlian that wliich most closely corresponds to that organ 
in the female ? 

Interestingly enough the only etymolt^ wliich I have been able to 
trace for the meaning of the various words which are used to describe 
the subindzed penis in Austtalia is that supplied by Roth for the north¬ 
west Central Queensland tribes of whom he writes that “ it is interest¬ 
ing to note that in the Pitta-Pitta and cognate Boulia district dialects 
the term used to describe an intiocized penis denotes e^mologically 
One with a vulva or ‘ slit ® Roth considered that female laceration 
preceded male subincision and that ” on the principle of a form of 
miinicry, the analogous sign was inflicted on the to denote 
corresponding fitrtess " for the purposes of copulation.® In this he 
came very near to die theory which is here being proposed, but fell 
somewhat wide of the mark because of his altc^ether unjustified 
assumption of the priority of female laceration. That the subincized 
penis is njfmed to as a vulva may or may not be of significance for 
the present theory, T offer the interesting fact here merely for what it 
may be consideiHed to be worth. Any value that may be placed upon 
it may perhaps be increased hy the following inter^cing corroborative 

Hogbin in his report on the Dap tribe of Wogeo, whicli it will be 
recalled is die most northerly situated of the Schouten Islands in the 
territory of New Guinea, makes die foUowtng illuminating remarks: 

“ Perhaps the most fundamental teli^ous conception relates to the 
difference between the sexes. Each sex is perfectly all right in its own 
way, but contact is fraught with danger for both. Tlic chief source 
of peril is sexual intetoourse, when contact is at its maximum. The 
juices of the male then enter the female, and vice versa. Women 
are automatically cleaned hy the process of menstruation, but men, 
in order to guard against disease, have periodically to incise the 
perns and allow a quantity of blood to flow. This operation is often 
referred to as men’s menstruation. 

‘ Gto«d-lMing hat Mttang most pec^ been practiced fsf the tune i«tun, md it idl] 
Wp^scddowntQ^pmBiiiairy’iEMngihetMSBDEiyofEuTDpc^ A| time, paniciiladv 
miHe sevenleeiiEh and tig^teench cesmtiet^ ihe tieacn«u efilmoit ev«y diseite h^ pt i widl• 
phlebatomy or 

* W. £i Rothp StuJSMf etc., rSa. 

* HikL 



“ All contact with a man or woman who is ' menstFuating ' has to 
be avoided, and they themselves have to take a number of precautions. 
Thus they may not touch their own akin with their fingemails, and 
for a couple of dap they have to ear wadi a fork. The penalty for 
touching a menstruating woman is death by a wasting disease, against 
which there ts no remedy whatsoever. The ‘ menstniadng' man 
has also to avoid sexual intercourse until his wounds are healed, at 
least two months heing allowed for this. Should this prohibition 
be broken both parties are liable to die, though they may save them¬ 
selves by confessing their guilt and carrying out a magical rite. 

“ Men also incise the penis after tliey have performed certain tasks 
which for magical reasons are held to be very dangerous. These 
include the erection of a new men's house, burying a corpse, taking 
part in an expedition with intent to murder someone, and initiating 
a youth. All these tasks are held in some mysterious manner to 
contaminate those who take part in them, and the flow of blood is 
necessary for cleansing purposes.*’ ^ 

Among the natives of Wogeo, then, it would appear quite clear 
that the penis is incised on the analogy of female menstruation for the 
purpose of permitting the bad humours within the body, and such as 
are likely to be produced during the performance of certain tasks wnth 
which a great deal of power is associated, to he liberated and voided. 
Thus, the operation is here of a therapeutic and prophylactic nature, 
but it is at the same time a strongly mogico-reli^ous procedure. Tlius, 
the elements that were missing in Basedow's and Rivets’ theories 
are here supplied, and it seems highly probable, therefore, tliat wbether 
or not the practice of subindsion originated in Australia, w'hatever 
the reasons assigned by the natives for the practice, the rite as it is 
to-day ptacrised in that continent was originally performed for 
reasons similar to those given by the natives of Wogeo for the practice 
of the rite of incision. 

It is very likely that the rite was at one time practised throughout 
Australasia and Oceania, but whether or not the rite is of indigenous 
on^n in Australia is a matter with which we are not here concerned. 
It is suffiaent for our purpose to have arrived at a condustoit wliich 
renders any association between subincision and procrorion highly 
unlikely at any time in die history of the former. 

It would be impossible to leave this subject here without referring 

V of Wogeo^RepOrt of Fidd WoA w NewGuiftoh" Otia^ 



very briefly to the Anuita tradirtons associated with the practice of 

Among all the central tribes tliere is a tradition that the rite of 
subincision -was introduced by the ancestors of the men of the Achilpa 
totem. According to this tradition many of the original Achilpa 
men, during the course of their wanderings, developed a disease 
Itno^^'n as Erkincha.''- This disease affects the glands in the region 
of the perineum and anus, and sometimes the axillae and the angle 
ot the mouth. It is a disease to wiiidj the young people are at the 
present day particularly liable. Many of the Achilpa men died from 
tlie effects of this disease, and where they w-ent into the ground 
Kmjwya arose to mark the spot. Wlierever, on their wanderings, 
the Achilpa men rested there they performed Arilta or subindsion 
upon the young men and sometimes the old men as well. Whenever 
and wherever Arilia was performed a special Nuttunja was erected.® 
It is curious to note, however, that those young men who were already 
suffering from Erkb^ka were not operated upon,® at least this was so 
at one place where the Achilpa men rested.'' Throughout the wander¬ 
ings of the Acliilpa men Erkmcha and Anita are always and with 
uniform regularity associated together. This continued emphasis 
upon the association in the Achilpa tradition is very signifleant, 
for it suggests that subincision was performed as a preventive measure 
against the contraction of Erkincka, It is likely, too, that the operation 
may have been performed upon rlie women for the same reason, 
for the natives at the present time believe that a man suffering from 
ErkhKka conveys a ma^c evil influence, which they call Amng^idita, 
to the women, and by this means it is conveyed as a punishment 
to other men.® It is possible that the operation w/as originally intro¬ 
duced to guard against just such magical effects. If the Achilpa 
tradition rests upon any factual basis, such an interpretation then 
becomes quite possible. 

In an Arunta myth recently reported by T. G, H. Stiehlow, namely, 
the myth of the ** great chief Ntonionunga", the eldest son of the 
“chief” performs suhincision on his father out of sexual Jealousy, 
in order to prevent him from interfering with another Achilpa woman, 
the father and the woman both having belonged to die same subsec¬ 
tion, w'hich would have made their lelaiionship incestuous.® Strehlow 

> Atvnta, jg4-& * IWij^SS, * [bid ,St. 

* tdem. ■■ IlwL, j9f. ii, 1. 

* T. G+ H- StrdlildW, A rAnrap^ni a, \ninida myth,** 



thinks that this myth may throw some tight upon the ori^n of sub¬ 
incision, but I must confess myself completely unable to see how, 
and in what sense, such a myth could be taken to throw any light upon 
the subjects 

As a rule wherever any myths or traditions are found associated 
with the rite, these indicate that the piacrioe was instituted in order 
either to prevent or to overcome the effects of disease and its magical 
influences. Thus, for example, among the natives of King Sound 
in the north-west it is beUeved that the operation was introduced 
by a stranger who came to earth from above, at a time when an awful 
scourge, due to the poisonous exhalations of a green monster, was 
threatening to exterminate the trtbe.^ 

Such beliefs are perfectly consonant with the view of the origin of 
subincision which has been outlined above, and with this statement 
we may well leave our discussion of the matter here. 

^ H. Bwekiw'p TAtf 

Chapter XIII 


Among the most important facts which have been brought to Ji^u 
during the course of die preceding discussion stands most prominently 
the fact that in Australia the concepts of mothtthood and fatfarkood 
are viewed as of an essentially non-biological, exclusively sociai 
nature : diat tliete ts an absence of arty concept of blood rclationsiiip 
between mother and child as well as between father and child—a 
fact which has been genetally completely overlooked. It is not difficult 
to understand how this nescience of the blood tie between mother 
and child came to be overlooked by students of Australian ethnology, 
for in the first place, the bias whteffi had been given to the discussion 
by the controversies of the " mother-'right ” and ** father-right “ 
schools had turned exclusively upon the ignorance of physiological 
paternity, and, in the second place, the blood relationship between 
moilier and child was considered to be so inescapably obvious, that 
any suggestion that a real ignorance ” of physiological matemity 
could possibly exist among any people, however lowly, would have 
been received, as it was by Lang and others, with blank incredulity. 
We have already had occasion to mention Lang’s objections to the 
alleged ignorance among the Arunta of the tie of blood on the maternal 
side. The relationship, argued Lang, was far too obvious for tliem not 
to be aware of it, they merely did not permit it to affect the descent 
of the totem, which is regulated by their doctrine of incarnation. 
It cannot perhaps be too otien remarked that the categories of thou gh t 
peculiar to ourselves are by no means refined enough to enable us 
to wield them with any degree of success as effective insrrum«it5 
in the analysis of the thought of natives. The difficulty is, I think, 
much greater than is customarily realized or allowed, as those wlio are 
possessed of some knowtcdgie of the stnicture of the languages of 
some of the simpler peoples will agree. L^vy-Bruhl has shown some¬ 
thing of die nature of the difference involved in the mental functions 
of simple peoples, and has emphasized their essentially mystical nature. 
The mind of the Australian is no mote pre-logical than that of the 
modem educated man or woman. Essentially the mind of the savage 



fiuictions in exactly the same way as our own docs> the differences 
perceptible in the effects of that functioning axe due only to the 
diffexences in the premises upon which diat functioning is based, 
premises which represent the logical instruments of the native's 
thought, and have their origin in categories and forms of judgment 
whidi are to some extent different though quite as rigorously organic 
as our own. Had Aristotle and Kant been bom into an Arunta group 
their categories and forms of judgment would have been quite different 
from wliat we know them to be. It is for this reason that it is so 
difficult for one who has been educated in the western tradirion to 
judge or evaluate the meaning of certain native beliefs and practices, 
and unless such a one has divested himself of as many of his own 
prejudices as he is able, be will never succeed in arriving at an under¬ 
standing of such beliefs and practices. According to the categories 
of thought in which Lang was educated it is quite impossible to escape 
the observation of the fact that there exists a pkyskal connection 
between a motlter and her child. Whatever pagan or Ouisrian doctrine 
may allow as possible in the western worlds when all other facts have 
been eUrainated in il^e consideration of die miuxe of maternity, 
there remain the two irreducible correlates which alone make die 
physical or psychical relation posribfe, namely die relation between 
the woman and the child to which she has given birth. 

Among ourselves a child is die effect of certain causes operating in 
a given system of conditions, die first and most indispensable of which 
h a woman, called the mother, who will bear the child, and who will 
be socially known as its sole modier thereafter. As stated this view 
hardly differs from diat held by the Australians, it is only in the 
interpretation of the nature of the causes and conditions that there 
exists any djifeence betw'een our own and the Australian belief. The 
logic by which die Australian arrives at his conclusions in this matter 
is as faultless as our own, it is tlie difference in tlie nature of the premises 
which produces die difference in the conclusions in each case, Bodi 
lecognize the necessity of a woman in order that a cluld may be bom, 
but whilst our own system of beliefs tells us tliat a child is the immediate 
product of the fertilized ovum of the woman who bears it—its physio¬ 
logical mother ^mong the Australians there is no such recognidon 
of any essendai physical reUrionship between the woman and die child 
that comes out of her, for the child bom of a woman is a being 
that actually much older than anyone living in die tribe at the dme 
of its htrdi, die incarnation of some ancestral being or sage, and, thus. 


an entiiy perfectly independent m origin of any possible causes opcranr^ 
at the time of its incarnation or biith into the tribe. T)ie spirit child 
merely enters a ^oman whom it considers sufficiently attractive and who 
is of the right moiety ^ the same spirit child could have entered and have 
been bom of any number of difierent women, at least, the spirit child 
does not acquire a new body from its host, the woman, in whom it is 
incarnated, but is already associated with a body which needs only to 
undergo an “ unfolding " during its sofoum within its host, from a 
rartappa or kuruna to a newborn baby, it is clear that there is and can be 
no physical connection between a woman and tlie child which comes 
out of her. Tlie only purpose of the woman in the whole cycle of 
events leading to childbirth is to act as the means of transmission of a 
spirit child into the proper moiety, class, and section of the tribe, and there 
is no more connection between her and the child transmitted through 
her than that. Certainly it is quite cirar to every Australian that every 
child passes into the world tliiough the medium of some woman, and 
there is no one who would or could deny tliat this elementary fact 
is quite clearly recognised by the native. What the native does deny, 
quite possibly as a result of his lack of awareness of the fact, and that is 
quite another thing, is that there erists any tie of blood between a 
child and the woman our of whom it has come. We, with our prejudices 
find it difficult to understand such a state of affiiiis, but this In no way 
affects the conditions as they exist among the Australians. Each indivi¬ 
dual is an independent entity, and has been so from die beginning of 
time, no one is dependent upon anyone else for his or her appearance 
upon this earth. If a mother or faffier kill their child, it will certainly 
make its appearance at some future rime, either to its late parents or to 
some other parents. There is no question of pfyficnlgeneradim on the 
part of any woman or man, there are no physiological conditions to 
be fulfilled before one can be reborn. Sexual intercourse between a 
husband and wife acts as a socially sanctioned declaration to the proper 
spirit children that the woman is now ai’ailahle for their transmission 
into the tribe, though the mere fact of marriage is quite sufficient to 
produce this eSect. But these conditions are not construed as physio¬ 
logical ones, but as purely sodal ones. A child must have a family, 
a " father ” as well as a “ mother ", without a “ fether " it is an anomaly, 
something that does not fit into the structure of society as it is—in 
such a society it can have no place. Whether the “ father ” is the actual 
husband of the “ mother ", or is some other individual nor so related, 
such as the worroru of some of the Western Australian tribes, these 



elementary " family ” conditions must be fulfilled. It is not 50 much 
that society demands it, as that it is clearly the mmral condition of 
things that a child should be bom into a family^ for it is only m 
exceptional cases that a child is bom out of wedlock^ and thus 
outside the family. Such an exception is re^rded as the efEect of some 
malign influence either on the part of some mischievous spirir^ or a 
medicine-man, or some other malignant individual, who may have 
incited a spirit child to enter the unfortunate girl. In neither the normal 
nor the abnormal cases is any physiology involved as between the 
spirit child and its mother or fatiter* As I have already had occasion 
to point out, these terms, mother and " father are used in a purely 
social sense. There is nothing in their meaning that denotes any 
rebtionship of blood with anyone or anything else. In fact, the concept 
of hlood-rebtionship in our sen^ does not and cannot exist among the 
Australians—there are only social relationships. To recognize, or to 
become aware of the existence of such a thing as iflooJ-relarionship^ 
one individual at least must be regarded as in a particular sense the 
cause of another, it must be recognized that some part of the one has 
contributed to the formation, to die genesis, of the other. An awareness 
of such things the Australians do not haw, nor, I believe, have they 
ever had, thus, the recognition of the concept of biood-reladonship or 
consanguinity is impossible to them. Moreover, I think that it is 
extremely likely that this absence of any recognition of blood-relation¬ 
ship Is one that was characterisuc of diat much abused creature, 
prime^^ man. This last generalization is supported only by such 
evidence and arguments as have been presented in the preceding pages 
of this book* Upon the basis of these it seems fairly evident that such 
a generalization is more likely to be true than otherwise* But in the 
present work we are concerned only with the conditions among the 
Australian tribes as we know them, the generalization for primeval 
man has been introduced here only for the reason that I believe chat it 
is a consideration which deserves lather more attention that has thus fax 
been ^ven it in dtscussions of the evolution of concepts of kinship and 
kinship terms. The hopeless confusion originally introduced into this 
subject by Morgan, who believed that all systems of kinship were based 
on a reco^ition of community of blood through procreation, that is, 
consanguinity,^ has to a large extent persisted down to the present day. 

1 UJL of Co™^iEiity !in 4 Affinity of |J« Hlo™ FwittEyr iWMjr™ 

^ 10 sqo. ; YoriC 1877, i 

it ^ im, how™. 


Matmowski who has been respomibk for one of the most inDeresring 
discussions of kinship in Ausnaiia^^ failed to say the last word upon 
the subject because of his failure to recognize that nor only was there 
no recognition of the blood tie between father and child, but that there 
was also the more imporcani non-recognition of such a tie between 
mother and child. Instead, bfalinowski began his analysis of the con¬ 
cept of kinship on the basis of" The existence of the individual femily 
as a social unit, based upon the physiological facts of maternity^ ^ ^ “ 

and throughout his discussion assumes that “ the existence of tliis 
physiological and social basis of kinship may be taken as granted 
And from this standpoint he then proceeds to discuss the subject in 
i^jlation exclusively to paternity. Had Malinowski correctly interpreted 
the evidence relaring to Australian maternity his discussion of kinship 
would, I think, have been unimpeachable. That Malinowski was not 
altogether unconscious of the possible significance of the facts relating 
to "maternity"" in Australia is clear from his comment made in 
connection with "the well-known fact that physiological maternity 
is much more easily ascertainable than physiological paternity« 
Paternal kinship,*" he writes, " therefore, will much more frequently 
differ from what we called consanguinity than maternal kinship, 
But,*^ he adds, “some of the Australian examples and our previous 
general oomiderarions should make us cautious in laying down 
a prion any assertion of the purely physiological character of 

A study of the factors which in the past have caused ethnologists 
who occupied themselves with this subject to overlook the fact of the 
nescience of physiological maternity among the Australians would 
in itself provide an interesting chapter in the history of ethnological 
drought. Frazer, oiice having stated the fact seems completely to have 
forgotten it, except only in so far as it related to his theory of toiemism.^ 
Gomme who sewms to have been fully aware of diis peculiar nescience,® 
and came nearer than anyone else to a noalizadon of its signtfkance, 
did not, however, work out in detail the full implications of this 

^ TAm Famify ama^ iht dii^. vL 

* 17^. la hii aniclc qq ** Kioihip " in ihc xiuj chll 

bffiDnA iti powtaJ bofld^ bjae*! upjjn prmeattaPp seebUy mieepret^ 

■ tby,, 174. 

*■ B^kL, 3D7f 117. 

^ L The. of Fld4;ioa ,3iiJ ToCemiso oumnis die AustrilLiii Aborigintf,'^ 

bvii^ 190^, 4f 

* L^Oo^mmeij ar ^cwkit, London, "The Auitraluiifi, for 

mstHTicc, have temu !□ esqsrcBB the rdatiandtip bctpmal nioEhcr and diiM- Thii is thg 

phy^cal b oo aigniikafKt.** 


nesciencej whilst vw. Gctmep,^ like Hartland^ and Malinow^,^ 
as well as numerous otherS;^ residctcd thi^Lr disoission to die ignorance 
of physioIo^caJ pat^mi^. And^ indeed, as i have already pointed out, 
it was this preoccupauon with the ignorance of ph3rsio1ogicaI paternity 
which served to divert the attention of students of the subject from 
the more important, but apparently less obvious^ ignorance of physio¬ 

RadclLffe-Brown in an invaluable general survey of the stxrial 
organization of Australian tribes has recently gone quite out of his 
way, as it seems to me, to perpetuate this error, an error which has, 
however, rarely been so positively stated. Radcliffe-Brow'n 

In Western civilization we normally diink of genealogical relation^ 
ships In terms of wliat are commonly called biological, but may perhaps 
bener be called physiological relationships. There is an obvious 
physiolc^ical relationship between a woman and the child to which she 
gives birth. For us there is also a physiological relatiortship betw'een a 
child and the man who is the genicor* The first of these is reco^ized 
by the Australian native, but the second is not recognized. In some 
tribes it seems to be denied that there is any physiological relationship 
between genitor and offepring. Even if in any tribes it is definiiely 
recognized it is normally, or probably universally, treated as of no 

Upon what grounds Radctilfe-Brown attributes a knowledge of 
physiological maternity to the Australians I do not know, certainly 
there is nothing either in the organization or in the beliefe of any 
Australian tribes which has thus far been described which would lend 
the slightest support to such a statement- Radcliffe-Brown's statement 
can only be explained upon the ground that the physiological relation¬ 
ship between a woman and her child seemed so obvious a thing to 
him that he considered, or rather assumed, that it could not but fail to be 
equally obvious to the Australians. Nowhere, however, has he, nor fot 
that matter has anyone else, been able to produce any evidence in 
support of such a statement. On the other hand, Radcliffe-Brown has 
cle^ly shown, in his own words, that “ The father and mother of a 
child are the man and woman who, being husband and wife, i.e^ living 

1 ^ ™ Pirii, dupi. 

1 n Lofldcij^ wifl, dua ^iiL 

t * fatriify OJTtitrlg l\f LcMwioQt igjtp 

A. H. KatMiffc-Brown, Jht Soda! Org^tasiaR of ATWilim K ^93°* 



together in a union recognized by other members of the tribe, look 
after the child during in^cy. Normally, of course, the mother is 
the woman who ^ves birth to the child, hut even this is not essential 
as adoption may give a child a second mother who may completely 
replace the first 

In a final section of the same study Badclifie-Brown, having demon¬ 
strated the misleading nature of the kinship and genealo^cal 
terminologies of earlier writers, goes on to say that “They (the 
earlier writers) distinguish between ' blood * and ‘ tribal ’ relation¬ 
ships, In the first place the renn * blood * is misleading. The Australian 
aborigines do not recognize physiological but only social relation¬ 
ships as was mentioned in Part f of this essay 

If, as Raddiffe-Brown here states, the Australian aborigines do 
not recognize physiological but only social relationships, how, then, 
can they be aware of a relationship between two individuals, a mother 
and child, which Radclifie-Brown has himself declared to be of a 
nature which is not recognized ? Obviously, they cannot be aware 
of such a lebtionship. Clearly, whilst recognizing the essentially 
social nature of maternity and paternity in Australia RadcHRe-Brown’s 
own western prejudices have unconsciously caused him to interpolate 
the wholly unknown and unnecessary concept of physiological 
matetnity into this scheme. 

We have seen in the foregoing pages that everywhere in Australia 
whether the tribe be organized upon a patrilineal or upon a matrilincal 
basis that the relationship which the motlier bears to the child is 
regarded as being, from the physical standpoint, none at all, whereas 
the relationship between father and child is practically everywhere 
emphasized, but, of course, in no physiological sense, but only in a 
strictly social sense. This, however, has not always been allowed 
to be the case. Such statements as those quoted by Howitt for some 
of the south-eastern tribes have, as we have already seen, been taken 
to mean that there is some consanguineous relationsliip between father 
and child. Malinowski, for example, writes in connection with these 
tribes, “They seem to know that conception U due to copulation. 
But ^ey exaggerate the father’s part. The children arc begotten 
* by him exclusively ; the mother receives only the germ and nurtures 
it; the aborigines . . . never for a moment feel any doubt . . , 
that the children originate solely from tlie male parent, and only 

’ IbEd., 4j. 

* Ibid,p 4}^- TMs UatcTTioiil tFcnildl indicalc that Dor {tiiagrecmcnt hm icmH puc^y 

to m malCar of 



ow^e dieir in&ndTie aurturc tD theJr moLher TliSs theory is not a 
logical and consistent onCj but none of die aboriginal views possess 
these qualities ! But this theory of ptocreation is quite clear and 
ca[egorical in acknowled^ng exclusively what seems to the native 
mind important for the formation of consanguineous ties in the 
act of procreation* Let us adduce the examples in deteili. as they are 
very mstnicrive* The Wirdajuri nation ^ believe ihai the child 

* emanaies from the fatlier solely^ being only nurtured by its mother \ 
There ts a strong tie of kinship between the child and die father; 
the latter nevertheless has not the right to dispose of his daughter in 
marriage; that is done by die mother and the modier^s brother. 
We see here that curiously enough strong paternal consanguinity 
coincides with weakening of the puiria potestas (provided the informs- 
don be accurate on both points)- For disposal of the daughter is one 
of the chief features of a parents authority over the child- Among 
the Wolgal the child belongs to the father^ and he only * gives it to 
his wife to take care of for him This is probably an interpretarion 
of the facts of procreation^ In this tribe the father disposes of his 
daughter; in fact * he could do what he liked * with her on die ground 
of his exclusive right to the child. Here, apparently, the ideas on 
kinship enhance the patetnal audiority. A strong proof of the unilateral 
paternal consanguinity is given yet more in detail in the case of the Kulin 
tribes. There, according to a native expression, ‘ the ciiild comes from 
the man, the woman only takes care of And when once an old man 
wished to emphasize his right and authority over his son he said r 

* Listen to me ! 1 am ho^, and there you stand with my body.^ ^ 
This is clearly a claim to kinship on the basis of consanguinity. It 
IS interesting to note that in the examples just quoted this consangmn- 
eous kinship seems to ^ve some claims [O authority. Analogously 
amongst the Yuin the child belonged to his father ' because his wife 
merely takes care of his children for him 

However^ Malinowski remarksj Withal this information leaves us 
in the dark about the detailed working of these ideas. Especially 
we aiK not quite clear whether the assertions of " being of the same 
bodyof ‘ belonging to him *, etc., do actually refer to the act of 

^ A- w, H&wfti," ¥mm ^^mhear-dj^ m FBahcr-rijjJii/' /wttv. /jMt, lii* 1883* fOL 

* Ar L. F. Cjmci‘W)p Nom Sranc Tribn ol New SdUdl Wale^" IniU, 

■ Ar W, Hawin, NQtjv4 Tri^ SMiik-6Hi 1 ^. 

* Ibtd * [bEd 

B. Malbwiklp Pvrjifyf wCrf 



procreation, whether they form an interpretation of this act, or 
whether they have <[uite a different basis. . . . We are not at all 
sure whether all these ideas, instead of being theories of the act of 
impregnation, have not some mystic, legendary basis like die beliefs 
of the Queenslander dealt with above 

These last doubts expressed by Malinowski are very much to the 
point, fortunately it is to-day possible to resolve them more or less 

Now, it is fairly certain tliat the beliefs of the south-eastern tribes 
with tespect to parentage merely represent particular examples of the 
case which is general in Australia, namely the belief that the fatlicr 
ts in many ways socially more significant than the mother. Actually, 
there can be little doubt that the south-eastem tribes place little 
more emphasis upon the paternal relationsiiip than the central tribes 
do. Howin and Cameron emphasize the role of the father; Horne 
and Alston assert ** that llie hither has anydtlng to do with conception 
IS absolutely foreign to the native mind TItanks to the investiga¬ 
tions of Elitin among these tribes we are now in a position to state 
definitely that in no case is the father or mother regarded as playing 
a causative or generative role in procieatlori. A child originates neither 
from the father nor tlic mother but from a purely spiritual source— 
by being “ found '* in a dream or %'ision by the prospective father, 
by the prospective mother’s consumption of “ child-food ”, or 
from a spirit-centre.^ It will be recalled in this latter connection that 
according to Home and Alston the Mura-mma sometimes left potential 
spirit children in the rocks or tn trees, and that these entered the women 
who came into contact with them.'* What the meaning of such state¬ 
ments as those made by the infonnants of Howitt and of Cameron 
might be I have already attempted to explain upon an earlier page.* 
It was tliere suggested that since among the Wurunjerri the clan 
totem is inherited and descends in the male line a man’s children 
will all necessarily be of the same “ body ” as their father, body ” 
here being taken to mean “ totem ”, for as we have already liad 
abundant occasion to learn everywhere in Australia an Individual's 
body and his totem arc closely identified. It is probable, tlterefore, 
that what old Boberi meant when he remonstrated with his son, 
who must necessarily have been of the same clan totem and there- 

^ Ibkd., * }!omc ifid Aiitofi, locv dtj, lif. 

■ A. P. FEfcIn , Tbc Soda! Organusifion of Soiifii Au&traiiim Trijaci^'' ii, 

70-1 ; f9J-+ 

* L0& ck , i 

* AnU, 

3i6 maternity 

foie of the same descent as himself, "was that it ti-as shaxnefijl to 
be disrespectful or untnuiding of one who was of the same body, 
the same flesh, dim U, of the same totemic origin as himself. 
It is equally possible that old Boberi's remark may be explained by an 
appeal to some such belief as that which was held among the Nimbalda 
of the extreme north of South Australia.'^ It was apparently the belief of 
this tribe that a murte (mura, moora, mura->nii/a}, or spirit child, before 
undergoing incarnation in a woman formed itself to look like the black- 
fellow whom it wished to have for a father. Tliis was ach ieved by follow¬ 
ing and walking in die blackfellow’s tracks, and by then throwing a 
wreichu or waddy under the thuiub-nail or great toe-nail of the black- 
fellow’s luira, in this way enter her body. There is no question here 
of childbirth being regarded as due to intercourse; the child was of 
spirit origin and merely modelled its appearance upon that of its 
prospective fethcr, but the father was not himself regarded as the direct 
cause of the resemblance, for he constituted only an unconscious model, 
as it were, upon which the spirit child looked in order that it might 
resemble the model. If we m^e use of a rather lame analogy here, we 
may say that there is as much connection between the spirit child 
and the prospective father as there is between a well-known beauty and 
her innumer^lc apes or imitators ; all these are in origin distinct and 
separate individuals, and their existence is quite independent of one 
another, but owing to an accepted convention it becomes desirable and 
even necessary for one to resemble the other. Since they do, to some 
extent, look like one another there is this much in common between 
them, namely, that they form a class or group who ace linked to one 
another by their similarity of looks. Among the Nimbalda the know¬ 
ledge that a /Tiuree models itself upon Its prospective father naturally 
m^es it clear that the relationship between father and child is somewhat 
closer than tliat which exists between mother and child, for the child 
or muree would not have entered a particular bUckfel low's iuira bad 
not that blackfellow pleased him, his Mra has nothing to do with the 
matter at all. But in forming itself after the blackfellow' the mui-^ does 
nothing which would in any way give rise to a conception of consan- 
gtiini^ between itself and the blackfellow, for from stan to finish tliey 
are distinct and separate entities. What, however, can be claimed is 
that the child owes the appearance of its body to the model after which 
it vas fashioned. If, as is possible, some such beUefs obtain among the 
south-eastern tribes referred to by Howltt then the meaning of the 

^ Cf. ttnu, 1^1. 



words " There you stand with my body " might well be imerpreied 
to mean There you stand ’with the body which you voluntarily 
fasliioned after mine ”, or there you stand acclaiming to all the world 
by your physical appearance that you are my son;, that you chose to 
b^orae my son of your own volition....” The staiement chat the 
South-eastern tribes never feel “any doubt tliat children originate 
solely from the male parent ” may well mean that owing to some such 
beliefs as those which prevailed among the Nlnibalda there was never 
any doubt that a child belonged to a panicukr father, for in die sense 
which has been indicated a child owes its appearance, and in a way its 
existence, to its feuher. 

Such an interpretation is, of course, perfeedy consistent with wdiat 
we know of the beliefs and the social oiganizatiDn of the South¬ 
eastern tribes, and if in this discussion we have approached anywhere 
near a true interpretation of the probable meaning of the South-eastern 
beliefs, then it becomes fairly certain that the rektionship ’which is held 
to exist between father and child is based not an consanguinity, on a 
community of blood between them as we understand it, but upon a tie 
which constitutes a mtionalization calculated to emphasize a relation¬ 
ship between father and child which is not otherwise recognized to hold 
upon a physical basis. Such a rationalizadon approaches very close to 
the recognition of a physical tie between lather and child, but clearly 
not a generative tie, and this is the important point, for it is only when 
a generative rektionship is recognized between hither and child 
that it IS passible to speak of a consanguineous rekdonship. This 
nodon obviously liad no existence among the Nimhalda, nor 
can it have existed among the South-eastern tribes, tf, as has been 
suggested, tlieir beliefs in tl^is connecdon tesembled diose of the 

In connection with the point we have here been considering, 
namely, die rekdonsbip of the body of the child to that of its father, it 
wnould not be wholly out of place here to cite the beliefs prevailing 
among another people who are characterized by an ignorance of 
physiological paternity though not of physiological maternity, namely 
the Trobriand Islanders. 

Among the Trobriand Islanders every child is assumed and afErmed 
to resemble its father. When you inquire . ., why it is that people 
resemble their father, who is a stranger and has notlnng to do with the 
formadon of their body, they have a stereotyped answer : * It coagu- 
ktes the face of the child ; for always he lies with her, they si: togedier/ 


The expression euZi, to coagulate, to mould, was used over and over 
again tn the answers which I received* This is a statement of tlie social 
doctrine coticeming the influence of the &ther over the physique of 
the diild, and not merely the persona] opinion of my informants. One 
of my informants explained it to me more exactly, turning his open 
hands to me palm upwards: ‘ Put some soft mash (jera) on it, and it 
will mould like the hand. In the same manner the husband remains 
with die woman and the child is moulded.’ Another man told me : 

* Always we give food from out hand to the child to eat, wc give 
fruit and dainties, we give betel nut. This makes the diild as it is.’ 

“ Tlius,” remarks Malinowski, “ we see that an artificial physical 
link between hither and child has been introduced, and that on one 
important point it lias ovetshadowed the matrilincal bond. For 
physical resemblance is 3 very strong emotional tie between two people, 
and its strength is liardly reduced by its being ascribed, not to a 
physiological hut to a sodological cause—that of continued 
associadon between husband and wife.” ^ 

In precisely the same way and difieting only in the details of its form 
die same artificial link between fether and diild has been introduced 
among the Nimbalda, and tliere is some reason to believe that a simibr 
group of ideas are at the back of the Soutli-eastem bond between 
father and child as expressed by the statements we have had occasion 
to consider above. Wrenched out of their context, they have in die past 
serted to act as so many b^ys with wbidi to frighten anyone who 
may have been innocent enough to suggest that an ignorance of physio¬ 
logical paternity was to be found piacucally everywhere wdihin tlie 
continent of Australia. What, w'C may well ask, would ethnologists 
have considered to he the nature of the Trobriand state of procreative 
knowledge if some very proper observer had merely thought fit to 
report of them that one of their last cherished doctrines was the belief 
in the physical resemblance ber^'een father and child ? Would not 
most students of the matter have arrived at the ” obvious ” conclusion 
that among the Trobriandeis there was clearly a recognition of die 
physiological rebtionship between father and diild ? I believe that diis 
is exactly what has occurred in the case of the fragmentary reports of 
HoVidtt and Cameron in this connection. Apart from all otlier con¬ 
siderations it is very difficult to believe, though it is none the less not 
impossible, that the South-eastern tribes should in this matter of 
physiolo^cal paternity differ so radically from the southern tribes to 

* B. 7 %t Saual Lift Savagtt, Lcin^, 191^, 



the west who e^iihit this nuescience in no unequivocal terms/ and 
likewi^ the tribes to the east and to the north, In fact, ail tlie tribes 
neighbouring upon the South-eastern tribes. It is possible^ but it h 
extremely unlikely. In all the neighbouring Tribes there is to be found 
ilie belief in ilie incainadon of pre-existent spirit children togetlier 
witlr die host of beliefs which are invariably associated witit this 
fundamental belief—that the South-eastern tribes should form a 
unique exception to this rule, an insular contradiction in a sea of agree¬ 
ment^ u'e can only repeat, is extremely unlikely, 

Tlius, until further eridente b forthcoming to the contrary I chink 
we tnay fairly conclude that the concept of blood relationship b 
totally unknown in Australia^ 

With the problem of the Soudi-eastem tribes thus dbposed of we 
may now proceed to a consideration of the actual meaning of moilier- 
hood and fatherhood in Australia, since this matter is of fundamental 
importance in connection with any possible discussion of the pro- 
creative beliefs of the Australian. 

We have already seen that the concepts of maternity and paiemity 
have no place in Australian psychology, for If we restrict the use of 
these terms to the physiologicd rebtionship, using the terms moiAer- 
AmJ and JatA^riood to denote the social leiationships, tlien certainly 
they do not exbt in Australia, The evidence preserued in.tlic first pan 
of tliis hook is conclusive upon tliese points. We have now to consider 
wltat the nature of the rebtionshtps are which in Australia take the 
place of these non-cxbient rebrionships of maternity and paiemity. 

At the outset we are immediately faced with the problem of determin¬ 
ing whether the Austral Ian conceptions of motherhood and fatherhood 
as we have come to understand them in the preceding pages had any 
existence anterior to the development of the peculiar procreative beliefs 
of the Austral tans, or whether they constitute a development immedi¬ 
ately following from tliese beliefs. It should, 1 think, be obvious that 
the peculiar nature of the Australian conceptions of motherhood and 
fatlierhood as we know them take their form tom the existent pro^ 
creative doctrines of the tribe, but what we are concerned to determine 
b whether there existed any concepts of motherhood and father¬ 
hood prior to the development of such procreative beliefs. An 
attempt at such a determination can only be spectibtive. 1 do not, 
however, propose to spin any elaborate hypothesis as to witat the 
nature of those concepts may have been ; it is, however, necessary to 
^ A, P- oicjci, TlicScKazJ QrgjiiiEi«an ofSolUlh AtotzalunTrLba,*^ Orwuu^lt, 


say that sortie such very definite concepts nuist have preceded the 
development of the procr^rive beliefs in Atisiraba^ that the procr^dve 
beliefs were developed to explain the situarion in which itidi^idtmls 
found themselves, a situation that was from the outset of man^s rise to 
humanity a perfectly normal and ever recurring one, but one tlie nature 
of which by no itieans self-evident, namely, the family. The hunjly 

is at least as old as man’s Primate ancestry, and in its human form not 
less than a milUon years of age, and it is certain that as soon as men 
arrived at a consciousness of themselves and developed that contem¬ 
plative faculty which is the mother of all original ideas, and beg^ to 
reflect upon the nature of the world about them, that this particular 
situation in which naan found himself, naniiely, the family, was amongst 
the first objects of his contempbiion^ A male and one or more females 
hve together in a rather more tlian less permanent association, the 
females give birth to children, the male hunts tlie large game and leaves 
the more sedentary tasks of food-gathering and so on to the women 
and children. It is he who is the strongest and die lord master of 
them all Into further details it is unneecssa^ to enter in connecdon 
with this picture; as it stands, I think it is basically sound, and thatis ^ 
far as we need carry the matter. Essentially it is the pattern wliich still 
persists in all the most prunitive sodeties of whicli wc have any know¬ 
ledge, and is one that Is determined by the natural biological differences 
between die sexes. Cultural factors may actually produce a reversal 
in the relationships between the sexes, but such a reversal is a purely 
artificial thing and is of no primary significance.^ 

Now, within the natural primitive family group tile relation in 
which each individual stood to anodier ’would in the very nature 
of things give rise to oertMn emodons, sentiments, and ideas which 
would eventually oystalltze into certain definite concepts w^hich would 
in a very special sense serve to define those relations, and such concepts 
would naturally determine the nature of the terms used to describe 
those relations. Such rebdons would be recognized not in any terms 
of blood-relationship, but merely as the consequence of the simple fact 
of a number of people living together in a common group,^ and ot 
whom it is inevitable that one comes to diink of another in certain 
definitely restricted ways. This b no more than to say that die psydio- 
logical conditions arising out of the fact that a group of people living 

* 5«e M. indi M. VikHtfr^r Doifunant Six, Tor an Lnlvmting disrunicn 

of thit piliJiKt I bSio fci Six W York, 

^ ThiJ h 1^ point biti smssed qv Westcrniaf^kp Orypa ^and ^ 

Moca/ IdtsM, iii t j/ Mr-mciri 1, 


together give rise to teims desi^ating lelatiOTishIp* What these terms 
would be iSj 1 tbink^ fairly obvious. There would clearly be a term 
first to denote the position of the head of the family—m order to avoid 
confusion by introducing terms possessing a connotation tainted by 
our own conceptions of what com^ponds to this relation among 
oursel ves^ let us speak of tt as family headman ; there would then 
the woman or women owned by this maUj his wifi or wive^^ there 
would be children of both sexesj obviously the family headman^s 
children (but in no generic sense)^ whom we may safely speak of as 
his sons and daughters^ From the standpoint of the latter he would 
be ilieir family lord or headman, and together with bis wfe or wives, 
dieir family—and here there arises a difficulty. What are we to call 
tliese women: fitmliy ki:adwcm&i ? Such a term, I think, would be 
misleading, for the position of the woman in die primiti ve family must 
have been one at least of subservience to the family headman, as indeed, 
psychologically it still is even in marrilincally organized societies, in 
which the mother's brother assumes many of the duties of the family 
headman. It seems to me probable^ from the purely psychological 
standpoint, that in the primitive human family the position of tlie 
headraan^s wife^ or T^dves, w'as such as to give rise to a constellation 
of emotions, sendmenis, and feelings in the minds of the children of die 
family group of such a nature as to give rise in turn to a term which 
would describe the complex of experiences denoting the fact that one 
has been suckled, nursed, numired, managed^and educated during one^s 
early years by this woman, or group of women* Such women would 
then be described by the members of the first descending generation of 
die family by a term having some such connotation as ik^ w&mtm-who- 
&rai£g/it-me-ap. Whilst the childnsn of the family would call themselves 
by terms meaning we-whp-wcr€~irougAt-up-ly^tke-sam^fet*pis^ or 
brodiers and sisters. And since, if any sort of tribal organizadon 
existed, die same relationship would hold within each family, the 
same or simiJar terms would probably be used to describe the reladon- 
ships existing between members of different families, Tlius a child 
would call every man and woman of an ascending generation family 
Aeailman and womaJi~wki>”Arotight-fTt^-up^ and the children of the latter 
brothers and sisters. A family headman would call all the wives of other 
family headmen by a term denoting wifi^ and the women would likewise 
call such men by a term meaning kusifcmlj or fiwiily fiendman. But these 

^ Bfticdaw Etstca tlmt AusCraliao diildim La [^cnoal look txpoii the wtuH of ihc gencracoa 
older ihan difix^v^ iho« wtio gfimr tA*», ih«ir triial M thfiif «mjil faihm, ih* 

AujiraBj/t A&mgmtiif 1 ^. 



last poirtts are not necessary to our arguments All that I have here 
wished to bring out is that the relatiotiship between the family headman 
and hh wife or wives and the family dtildren of the immediate family 
must Iiave been construed in purely social terms, and not in any sense 
biological ones; that these terms, whatever they may have been* 
represented a purely social expression of what were ^teemed to be 
the natural facts as given in the social conditions which they were 
meant to express^ 

In such terms, of course, we have the expression of the primitive 
concepts of motherhood and fatherhood^ and it is, of course^ 
elementarily clear that they possess a very different meaning from the 
connotation which we cuscomarily give to the similar terms. 

The outcome of this discussion then is that it is very probabte that 
the primitive conceptions of fatherhood and motherhood were already 
in existence anterior to the development of any doctrines concerning 
their origin and meaning. These doctrines must have been elaborated 
at a later stage in order to provide an explanation of how these things 
came to be* Tliat these doctrines were based upon the conditions as they 
presented themselves to their makers seems obvious^ and that they 
were elaborated without the slightest notion of anything relating to 
concepts of commumty of bloody or the relationship between inter¬ 
coms and childbirth seems probable, for it is unlikely that any of these 
things could possibly have been understood by primidve man, for 
reasons that we have already abundantly dealt with* By such a route, 
then, we arrive at the conditions as we find them among the Australians 
at the present day^ 

Among the Australians the concepts of motherhood and fatherhood 
are of much the same nature as those which we have assumed to have 
characterized the earliest groups of social men, except that among the 
Australians there now exist ebboraie doctrines which serve botli to 
illtimine the nature of these conditions and to maintain them in their 
immemorial form in the pi^ent. 

Some support for the view of the original primitiveness of the 
Australian concepts of motherhood and fatherhood, as well as fot 
many other of dieir concepts, is to be drawn &om a consideration of 
the purely physical history of the Australian race* 

All students of die subject are agreed that physically the Australians 
represent tlic most primitive race living at the present time*^ Also, 

^ It mUfE be ttadc perfectly cScjt diii we refer hm » a p&yde^ pr|mitivGfle*i only. A.* 
hr ai the Aurtnilian brain Ei ccmexnuid iWl 11 said to presen.-^ «Ttiun pfimitav'c dlaract^ttici, 
puiieulaHy in ihe fomi of the £hhii 4 lab«, hut lueh dtaracEiSf* h*Vc no demaruira^- 


all are agreed that they represent the oldest living race known^ and that 
they have probably existed physically, relatively unchanged, for many 
thousands of years, in much the same way as they live at the present. It 
is by some students believed that some physical like the AnsttaUan 
may have formed the ancestral stock from whicluhe Caucasian \'adeties 
of mankind originally sprang. Whatever the truth may be, it is certain 
that the Australian represents a race whose history dates far back to i]>e 
remote stretches of antiquity, and whose roots He close to the stock 
from w^hich dte earliest men took their origin. At a very early period 
in their history diey seem to Itave become isolated upon die continent 
of Austraha, where, there is every reason to believe, they have 
retained, with but little change, the fundaments of thetr primitive 
cultural structure. The striking tmifomiity of their present cultural 
structure constittites very strong e\'idence in support of tliese states 
ments, a fact which points significantly to the common origin of that 
culture and to its essential primitiveness. It is possible to conceive, 
therefore, of the most fundamental Australian t^lJefs, such as those 
relating to motherhood arid fatherhood, for example, as of a nature 
dating back to the earliest form of diose concepts, and that the 
doctrines which have I>een developed in connection with tliem represent 
later superimposed developments. 

If, in considering the Australian evidence, we eliminate all reference 
to the beliefs about the origin of children, concerning which we have 
already seen that there exists no physiological knowledge w^hatsoever, 
nor any question of consanguineous relationship, we shall be able to 
deal with tlie fundamental primary faces, wliich are in any event 
entirely independent of the doctrine which forms the secondary soda! 
commentary upon them. At this stage of our discussion it must be 
quite evident tliat parentage in Australia is a purely social thing j 
indeed, it cannot be otherwise, for there is a complete absence of 
knowledge of the biological factors Involved in parentage. Let us now 
consider the facts. 

Everywhere in Australia the tribe is based upon its lowest unit, 
die family. Each family within the tribe lives in more or less complete 
independence of the other, whether such families happn to live 
together in a local group or separately. In each family the male head 
is die chief arbiter of its fortunes, and his wife or wives are subservient 
to his will. When a diild is bom into a family it is normally left to 

ccoAmian w3ih ihc fEmalons of riw Aiwatian tamd^ wbklj Si, lif courte, a pm^ jociil 


the wontan who gave it birth to nurse and suckle itj a process whidi 
usually lasts some four years* Thereafter the ** modier ** lias to assume 
the greater part of the responsibility for its upbringing until the age of 
pubertyj that is, social puherryj at which time a girlj who will nonnalJy 
iiave b^n ptorrused in marriage either before she ^'as bom or in infancy^ 
will go to live with her husband, and a boy will go to live in the 
bachelor^s camp. In all the processes involved in caring for the child the 
father ** generally assists as much as he U able* All observers agree 
upon the extraordinary tenderness which parents display towards their 
diildren, and indeed, to all children whetlier of their own family and race 
or not. Naturally, the affection existing between parents and their own 
children is greater than diai which exists between them and children not 
so related. Indeed, the ties of affection between parents and their 
children are extraordinarily highly developed among the Australians. 
Malinowski has gathered a large number of statements &om various 
sources which bear witness to the univeral distribution of tliis trait 
among the Australians.^ It is also to be noted tliat coupled wiiJi tliis 
great affection which the natives have for their children is a notable 
leniency in their treatment of them* They look after all their wants and 
go to the greatest trouble in order to satisfy them* Yet most observers 
agree that the children are quite unspoilt by this treatment, that, on the 
other hand, they are very obedient to their parents and greatly respect 
them, and are altogether very delightful little people. 

Until a child is able to walk it is usually earned about by its mother 
wherever she may go. In die central tiib^ when it is quite young it is 
placed within a pitcAi or bark carrier, which the mother then skiltully 
GUTies under her arm, or atop her head* Tliis utensil also serves die 
purpose of a cradle Tvhjch the mother will gently rock with her foot 
to soothe the child and cause it to fall asleep* When die child Is a litde 
older, and able to do so, it is allowed to ride pick-a-back style upon 
its mo therms back, or upon her shoulders, or it will often be allowed to 
straddle across one of her hips where she will support it with her arm. 
Wlien at rest or sitting upon the ground at work a gin will contrive 
to make a trough by raising her thighs towards her body in which she 
will place the diild whilst she works with her Ikands or gossips- 

Ai night time, in order to keep the diild warm, the mother will cuddle 
her child closely, and during the day, if it Is necessary, she will keep 
it comfortable by bedding it upon, and sprinkling it with, warm ashes. 

As soon as it is able to walk ihe child is allowed every freedom, but 
* E. MaJiaowiki, TAm Fandfy iki 13,4-275. 



always under the ^^tchfiil eye of its parents. Much time h devoted by 
both parents to tlie entertainment, amusement, and instruction of their 
children, and admirably enough the Australians contrive to make their 
didactic activities amusing to their children. No opportunify is nussed 
of instructing the young in the arts that wiU be useful to them as fiill 
members of the tribe. In the evenings songs and dances relating to the 
ancestral traits arc performed for their benefit, and these they are taught 
and encouraged to acquire. Tiic notes and calls of various animals 
are imitated^ and their tracts drawn in the sand, these things, of course, 
they enjoy imitating, and some acquiic a remarkable proficiency in 
doing so. “ The study of animal spoors,” writes Basedow, '' in all 
their specific and various intricacies, and especially the art of individual- 
i3iing tire human foot-print, rank among the most important and earliest 
occupations of tlic aboriginal child's mind. Parents are required by law 
to see that the children receive constant instruction and exercise in this 
department. It is a common thing for a modicr to purposely slip away 
from her children and nor to respond to the imploring wail, which 
follows w'hen her absence is discovered. The only symparhy that some 
relatives or friends will proffer is to direct the child's notice to its 
mother's tracks and at tlie same time urging it to follow diem up.” ^ 
Ttie importance of tracking in the Australian bush is, of course, 
great, and it is of interest to note that, according to Basedow, the 
parents ate under a obligation to make their cliildren proficient 
in this department of knowledge. Wliether the parents are or are not 
under a similar legal obligation with respect to the reaching of other 
branches of knowledge h is quite impossible to discover, but it would 
seem highly probable tliat tlie practices and customs of the past genera¬ 
tions have in this respect gradually resulted in a social oudook which 
renders such conduct on the part of the parents the normal thing, 
questions of obligatorin^s, doubtless arising only when there is an 
infringement of wliat amounts to the customary law of the tribe, that is, 
when a parent fails in liis duty tor^'ards his child and therefore in his 
duty tor^'urds the tribe, such a case one may feel reasonably sure w'ould 
practically never occur. It is die family pattern of die Australian tribe 
that parents should behave towards tlieir children as they do, their 
family life diaracterizod as it is by their deep affection for their children 
makes them solicitous for their welUbeing and for their acquisition 
of the various accomplishments which are demanded of every member 
of the tribe. Again, it is wliat the tribe expects of every individual ax a 

^ H. Eitsedc»^, Tit4 



certain stage in hiS social development that it is the task of the parents 
to instruct these individuals in. Up to the time of puberty, which is 
generally estimated to be between it and ii years of age, it is 
the function of the parents to educate their children in all those many 
fundamental arts in which they will later be retjuired to display a hi^ 
degree of proficiency, At puberty the task of the parents is brought 
to an end and assumed by the tribe. At this time both the boy and the 
girl leave their parental family to undergo the first steps into the 
initiation of full membership in the tribe, and from this time forwards 
they live apart from their parental families and pursue their own lives. 

Very clearly, from this general account, it is apparent that the parents 
in tlie Australian family are not more than the social guardians and 
tutors of the children who happen to have been bom into the immediate 
group which they constitute and whom they hold as wards in trust for 
the tribe. On the contrary, the biological parent of all children among 
the Arunta is Numbakulla who originally made them all,^ among the 
NImbalda the two old women called Yammutu,* Bahloo among the 
Euahlayl,® Anjlr among the Koko-Warra,* and Kakara among the 
Proserpine River blacks ®; there is no question of consanguinity 
between patents and children then, and such terms as are used to 
describe the relationships existing between them are, therefore, 
expressive of purely social relationships. Motherhood and fatherhood 
in Australia are categories wliich characteriae certain purely social 
relationships between certain individuals, just as any other social 
category does. One’s father's brothers are fathers, one's mother’s 
sisters are mothers. Tire diderence between the immediate family 
parents and one's other mothers and fathers is not classificatorily 
expressed, although qualifying terms may sometimes be added to the 
usual terms, as mother’s elder sister, or father's elder brother, etc., to 
denote the person spoken of t In all the relationships expressed by the 
classificaTory system of terms it is gmups of individuals tliat are 
involved, although the group terms, of course, apply to single indivi¬ 
duals within the groups thus designated. Raddiffe-Brown has put 
the matter very dearly: he writes as follows:— 

“ Every Australian tribe about which we have information has a 
classiflcatory system of kinship terminology. Tliat is to say, collateral 

’ Tfi Tapib'a. jluitraUan 

^ f DL 

* W. t Reds, “ SupmtiiiiKM. M . tgic , end Medicine, cic, Suit. K}, S. 16. 

* [bid., 17. 


and lineal reiaiives are grouped together into a certain number of 
classes and a single term is applied to all the relatives of one class. Tlie 
basic principle of the cUssrBcation is that a man is always classed with 
his brother and a woman with her sister. If 1 ^pply a given term of 
relationship to a man, I apply the same term to his brother. Thus I 
call ray father’s brother by the same term diat I apply to my hither, 
and similarly, I call my mother’s sister * mother The consequen tial 
relationships are followed out. The children of any man I call * father ' 
or of any woman 1 call ‘ mother ’ are ray ’ brothers ’ and ‘ sisters L 
The children of any man 1 call * brotherif I am a male, call me 
‘ father and 1 call them ‘ son ' and ' daughter^ 

Tlie only diSerence recognized between one's immediate family 
parents and one’s other mothers and fathers is that which arises out of 
tlte purely psychological condition originating in the intensely close 
association which we have seen to be characteristic of the life of the 
immediate parental rebtionships, otherwise one behaves much in the 
same general way to one's non-femily mothers and fathers as one does 
towards one's own family mother and father. Tlie affection which the 
members of the family group naturally bear for one another generally 
lasts throughout life, even though after puberty a boy may never again 
speak to his own sister. But the affecdon which exists between parents 
and their children has been particularly commented upon Jby all 
observers, yet it is an affection based purely upon early sentimental 
relationships, and the ties which exist between parents and children 
draw their sustenance from a force no stronger than these sendments 
bom of their early association. 

Both the mother and the father are necessary units in the family 
organization, but there exists evidence which would serve to prove 
that the parental rebtionships are determined solely by die existence 
of the “ father", and that die mother plays, as has been continually 
emphasized, a purely secondary, though % no means unimportant, 
role in the early life and development of the child. 

It is natural and socially recognized and the normal order of things 
that children shall be bom only into die socially recognized &Lmilv, 
that is, the group which by marriage is thus sanctioned to act as the 
medium for their transmission into the tribe. A child that is bom out 
of wedlock, as has been ffequendy pointed out, is an anomalous being, 
not merely an unusual phenomenon but an extremely unfortunate one, 

* A. R. RaitkiiEe-Browa,, The Socid Ch^mndofi. of AufirdiiM Tribesj" i, 

1930^ + 4 ^ 

3 z8 maternity 

for stidi a cKild all tlie rulcus* Since it has no father it can have no 

class^ tior subsection^ and generally no toiem, since tire totem is 
generally patrilineally determined» Such children must be disposed of^ 
Tlie importance of tlie fadier for the proper functioning of die paternal 
relationsliips is very strikingly emphasized by die fact, as lias been 
shown for the Narri nyeri, that" If the father dies before a child is bom 
the child is put to death by the mother Tliere can be no parental 
relationships without a father, and the existence and organization of the 
family is dependent entirely upon the presence of the male who is the 
indispensable condition of its being. The feet diat children are required 
to obey their fathers by law, but their “ mothers ” only under the 
sanction granted by tbeir ** fetliers'*^ who may reserve die right to 
rescind it a| any moment^“ is a fact further illustrad ve of the importance 
and indispensahility of the fedier. 

Wc may, in the words with which Malinowski has summarized the 
role of the father among the Trobriand Islanders, say of die role of 
die farher among the Australtans that it is “ strictly defined by custom 
and is considered socially indispensable, A woman with a child and no 
husband is an incomplete and anomalous group. The disapproval of 
an illegitimate child and of its mother is a particular instance of the 
general disapproval of everytlung which does not confomi to custom, 
and runs counter to the accepted social pattern and traditiotial tribal 
organization. The family, consisting of husband, wife, and children, 
is the standard $ei down by tribal law, which also defines the functions 
of its component parts. It is, therefore, not right that one of the 
members of this group should be missing. 

“ Thus, though the natives are ignorant of any physiological need 
for a male in the constitution of the family, they regard him as indis¬ 
pensable socially* This is very important, PatemUy, imkno^Ti in the 
full biological meaning so femiliar to us, is yet iruiirnained by a social 
dogma which declares: * Every femily must liave a fethcr; a w^oman 
must marry before she may have children ; there must be a male to 
every household.' 

“ Tlie insritudon of the femily is thus determined on a strong feeling 
of its necessity, quite compatible with an absolute ignorance of its 
biological foundations. The sociological role of the fethcr is established 
and defined mthout any recognition of his physiological narure,^^ ^ 

1 H* E- A. ** Mjfincn arnJ of jMwrfgTKf of the Enctsimiet Bay Tiibcj" 

in Wood^ ^ioivt TfiAiit of SwtA Au^traBa^ ^ddakde, i^T^t 

’ H. TAm Atiitfi&an 

* H. Midiwwdci* rS# Sma! Lifi tf 171^ 



Among the Australians the reasons for this indispensabiltty of the 
father adthin the family are such as to involve the whole social organiza¬ 
tion of the tribe. By Ais it is not meant that the necessity for a father 
arises out of the conditions of the scx:ial organization of the tribe, 
though this may with great force appear to he so, but that actually 
the original condition of the** father ”in the primitive family provided 
the foundation stone upon which the social organization of the tribe 
was eventually built, and that, since if tlie position of tlie father were 
at all modified in respect of that organization, it would obviously very 
profoundly affect the whole supenstructure which is so firmly based 
upon it. The position of the father is more than that of an integral unit 
in the structure of the Australian family and of society, for he ts the 
fundamental dynamic unit in the whole scheme, without whom it 
could not function, he is the centrum about which each family group 
revolves in an orbit wdiich is determined by the horde or tribe. The 
wife of a man gains her importance only in his reflection, it U in his 
light that she is seen as a member of a family group, and without the 
power and authority derived from him there can be no family existence 
either for herself or her children. 

When a family head dies lus brother may incorporate his deceased 
brother’s family into his own, and thus give the mother and her children 
a family social existence once more; or it may happen that the rebtives 
will adopt them, li is certain that such a woman is not left very long 
unattached, and It is quite probable that tlte custom of the lev irate 
whereby a wife or wives of a deceased man go to his younger or elder 
brother in marriage may have originated in the recognition of some 
such social necessity as the indispensability of a fatlier for each 

The family, upon this view, is not merely a self-sufficient economic 
unit entered into by the marriage of a man and a woman, even though 
the purpose of marriage from the standpoint of the individual may be 
underetood in purely economic terms, its sexual aspect being the least 
important consideration, socially, however, the function of marriage 
is the reproduction and maintenance of die tribe, for it is only through 
die medium of the married members of die tribe, or of a married woman 
of another tribe whose child entered her in the locality of a parrioilar 
tribe, that the tribe’s existence can be maintained. Tlie second social 
function of marriage is the raising and preparation of the young during 
dieir infancy by die responsible members of the marriage group 
until the tribe as a whole Is teady to assume the completion of die 


process which results in their fiill induction into the membership of 
the tribe. 

Thus, we see that the social nature of parenthood, originating in the 
primitive association of a man and woman and their children is mam- 
taincd and enforced by custom and justified by traditional teaching;. 
Tliat motherhood and fatherhood in Australia are based upon and 
fiilfit certain fundamental social needs, that these relationships are of a 
purely social nature, and that there is nothing of any biological or 
physiological nature, nor any concepts of consanguinity associated 
with these relationships, should, I think, now be perfectly clear. 

Chapter XIV 


** Min is mind^ and the sitttatton of mm as man is a oi^nial simarion/'-— 

Karl jA;SPERih, ht iA^ ^93^ 

In die preceding chapters the evidence relating to the procreative 
beliefs of the Australians has been coa'ddered at some length, the 
inythsj die traditions, and the beliefs- We have seen what these mytlis 
and traditions are, and also something of die source from which they 
derive. We saw that wherever in Australia intercourse is in some a-ay 
associated with pregnancy it is considered to be one of the conditiom, 
not a cause, and sometimes a dispensable condition, of pregnancy^ 
Intercourse, we found, b nowhere considered as capable of producing 
pregnancy, bur what is considered to be the effective cause of 
pregnancy, an^ nothing fZre, h the imniigTanon into a woman of a 
spirit child from some definitely known external source, such as a totem 
cenire, an article of food, or a whirKind, etc .; the spirit child being 
in origin entirely independent of its future parents. Whether or not 
a woman shall be entered by a spiri t child is generally considered to be 
dependent entirely upon the will of the spirit child itself Whether the 
belief in incarnation or in reincarnation was dominant or non-exisreiti 
in any particular tribe we found to make little distinguishable difference 
to the observed fundamental belief that cliildren were not the result 
of the congress of the sexes. Where animab are regarded as having 
souls they are believed to come into being in the same way as humans 
do, where daey are denied any spiritual qualities, as among the Tully 
River natives of North Queensknd, they are said to be the result of 
intercourse, or what is more likely, simple physical reproduction. Tliis 
latter view seems to be a special form of the doctrine of supematmal 
biitli which in the absence of the teaching of the original transforma¬ 
tion of animal and plant life into human bein^, and the general totemic 
beliefs of the Central Australian type, and in the presence instead of a 
doctrine w^iich accounts for the birth of men in such a way that 
animals and plants are necessarily excluded from the process. 

It is clear, then, that the conceptionai beliefs of the Australians in 
genera] represent but a special case of the belief in supernatural birth 


which has virtually a world-wide distribution and assumes a large 
^^ariety of fotiiis. These fomis and their distribution have, as we have 
already stated, been exhaustively dealt with by Hart land in his two 
tt-orks. The Legend of Perseus and Primitive Paternity. 

We have also seen how the beliefs of the Alchera type in eliminating 
or rendering unnecessary any conception of the physiological role 
played by individuals in the generation of a child give a non“biological 
purely social meaning to the concept of piarenthood and to the lenus 
“ father " and " mother 

Whether the nescience of the causal relationship between intercourse 
and childbirth Is a result of a primitive unawareness of the facts as 
Frazer, Hanland, and others believe, or whether this nescience iias 
been secondarily produced by a social dogma which has caused a 
shift in emphasis to take place which completely obscures the part which 
intercourse may formerly have played in the native conception of 
procreation, as Lang, Read, and Westermarck believe, are questions 
which it has seemed to us impossible to determine. Wlietlier the 
nescience gave rise to the dogma or the dogma to the nescience can be 
matter for speculation only and not for detnonstiatiori. Such questions, 
it would appear to us, ate falsely posed. Are we not in putting such 
questions, conimitring the error of introducing our own categories of 
dichptomist thought into a situation the nature of which is so 
thoroughly different from and so incommensurable with the conditions 
that we know, and think of and judge in so dififerent a frame of 
reference, as to render any such attempts at what L£vy-Bruhl calls a 
simplest inteltectual analysis * not only foredoomed to failure, but, 
what is worse, productive of explanations ” which, according to 
our own pattern of tliought, may appear perfectly congruent but 
which may be as false for the conditions they purport to explain 
as they could possibly be ? The question as to which preceded the 
other, the nescience or the dogma, is, I think, falsely broached because 
it altogether &ils to take into consideration the possibility that both 
the nescience and the dogma may actually be historically and culturally 
one and the same thing; that the dogma is the nescience, and the 
nescience is the dogma ; or, at least, inseparable parts of one another, 
and in origin and development contempotaneous with one another, 
since they are part and parcel of one another. I do not see the necessity 
of assuming the priority of one to the other, and no very good reason 
has ever been adduced In its support by those who have made the 

^ //(w NtiiivtA La^on, 193^, if. 



assumption, though much erudition and mgenutty has been expended 
upon the question. Certainly it is possible to envisage a change in the 
shift of emphasis during the course of the developmeiu of the conccp- 
tional beliefs of the Australians from a condition in which iniercoume 
was regarded as playing a more important part than it does to-day in 
the production of conception to one in which it was finally allowed to 
play little or no role at all in the procreative process ^ but this is purely 
specubtive and, as far as we are concerned, unimportant. What the 
*' facts *' may formerly have been there is now no means of telling. 
What the “ facts are like to-day it is difBcult enough to determine, 
and our cltief concern in this work has been with these latter, and with 
the attempt to determine their most probable meaning. In rite present 
chapter out task will be to discuss the mechanism, or the means by 
which the particular variety of tlie Australian conccptional beliefs or 
*' faas ” are maintained and confirmed. 

Tlie power of the human mind to transform facts, the data of 
experience, and to reinterpret them as necessity arises and occasion 
demands is one of the most striking of all cultural processes, and there 
can be little doubt that such processes have played an appreciable part 
in all that is comprised within any particular Australian culture. A fact, 
as we see it, an idea or a belief, is essentially a judgment about some- 
tliing, and as such one of its chief characteristics is that tt Is capable 
of undergoing modification and even complete change. Since, more¬ 
over, the folk mind characteristically functions affectively or emotion¬ 
ally rather than in a rational manner—-altliough, of course, in certain 
contexts the primitive or folk mind functions radomilly enough— 
and furdier, since the ima^nation may always be relied upon to supply 
the necessary modifications or cltanges and even the reasons for them, 
it is not difficult to see how, tn the course of time, considerable dianges 
may be brought about in the form of a social dogma and in the 
individual belief which is generally a function thereof. 

In view of these considerations it is quite possible dial the Australians 
liave gradually succeeded in suppressing or in attenuating the emphasis 
[hat may possibly formerly Itave been placed upon intercourse in 
rebtion to conception, in conformity with the development of the 
official doctrines in this connection. It is possible, but as 1 have pointed 
out there is no adequate evidence that this was ever the case. 

Without, then, speculating concerning the possible origin of the 
conceptionaJ beliefs of the Australians let us now inquire into the 
manner in which these beliefs function, how the individual comes to 



believe m them, and in what Tray these beliefs are maintained and 
reinforced by Bs own experience. 

In an earlier chapter in describing the Alchera beliefs and social 
organization of the Arunta we saw something of the emodonalty 
charged world in which the Central Australians live, a world consisting 
to a very large extent of spirit forces and influences, of occult powers 
and magic properties, concerning which there exists a body of tradi¬ 
tional teaching which serves to ^ve these things tlieir meaning and 
their value. Into tliis world tile individual is bom as an experiencer 
and as beir to the teachings which serve to give his experience a 
mraning. 'Hie variety of ways in which this teaching, the body ot 
traditional knowledge, is acquired mitst be understood if we are to 
obtain any understanding of the nature of the process which produces 
the lutrmony betn'een tradition, experience, and belief. 

The all-pervasive spirit nature of the Australian world begins to 
make itself felt almost ftom the moment of the individual's binli, for 
from that moment, as well as being the product of spirit factors, he 
becomes the object of spirit practices and himself becomes closely 
associated with certain spirit charges and spirit objects with which 
he soon comes to establish a deeply emotional relationship. Gradually 
almost every object in the outside world and almost every one of his 
subjective states assumes a spiritual meaning for him, for he comes to 
life and grows up in a world which owes its being to spiritual powers 
and is operated and regulated by spiritual processes in which men seek 
to participate in order that they may, among other things, have some 
share in die regulation of that world. 

Apan from such early instruction as he receives in the leli^ous 
doctrines of the tribe, an instruction which is only very general, for 
the teaching of childhood is chiefly devoted to the preparation of the 
individual in the various secular skills and activities which wilt later 
enable him, among other things, to support a family, the more serious 
instruction is left, as we have seen, until the time when the individual 
is considered to be capable of receiving it, w'hich is usually some time 
after die attainment of puberty and which is fomially concluded after 
a series of protracted ceremonies and ordeab have been passed throu^ 
—before this period in the development of the individual b arrived 
at he is busy acquiring die techniques of living, in learning how to 
track animals and to read spoors, to distinguish the cries of birds, to 
make simple w'eapons, to dig for grubs and burrowing animals, and 
so on. But the secular aedvides of his life are pursued in an environ- 


mem that k characterized by a dominant and aJl-pervasive belief in 
the operation of spirit forces. There aie sacred plai^ which he must 
never approacli and which are shrouded in deep mystery^ there are 
numerous other places which are the abode of certain spirits, the 
rocks, the gorges, the trees, the waterboles, the clouds, the sky, the 
sun, the stars, and the moon, all these are associated with spiritual 
powers, and for very definite reasons.^ On the march, a woman with 
her children will at times separate &om lier husband and take a very 
roundabout course to reach the same d^tinadon; the childten 
eventually learn il^t this is because the locaUiy wliich they have taken 
such pains to avoid is the situation of a very sacred place peopled by 
spirits, and so powerful that it is death for a woman or a child to 
approach if. Certain additional explanations ate offered, and the 
mythological history of these and similar things to a certain extent 
explained, and for the rest the imagination of the child may be relied 
upon to supply what it can. When, as happens at certain intervals 
during the course of the year, the men depan from the camp to take 
part in the celebration of their totemic ceremonies, wlten a youth ts 
to undergo the ordeal of initiation, the children witness and often 
partidpate in certain preliminary and subsequent activities which 
tmaginatiwly interpreted against what background of knowledge they 
alrrady possess serve to produce in them emotional states which are 

u-i from the distant ceremonial ground the 

children hear the mysterious sounds which they observe 10 inspire 
5u^ awe in the women and other children who have heard them before, 
and learn that the sounds are made by some great mysterious spirit 
who IS about to swallow or has already swallowed one of the novices 
who 1^, perhaps, formerly to play with them j when they observe 
the mfference in the deportment and in the appearance of the returned 
novice whom they may glimpse in the men's camp to which he is 
now permanently removed, tiie nature of the spiritual world becomes 
more real and more deeply impressive than ever. 

Without entering into any further detailed discussion of the many 

ani ciL) writes Df ennccmpoiiiry Ani|i« Laud 


other elements of experience which cotidhlon the child’s mind in 
Australia, it would seem so far clear in what manner tlie fundaments of 
the mind are accjtdred and how iliey are laid in deeply emotional and 
mystical bases- It should also be clear that under such conditions the 
play of the child’s imagination iti relation to the mystical conditions 
with which it is everywhere surrounded will form one of the strongest 
factors in integrating these conditions into a single system of workable 
beliefs- The fact that everyone else believes in the same way about 
the same ihin^ renders this integration according to the culturally 
determined pattern uncomplicated and inevitable. 

As the cluld passes Into adolescence and eventually proceeds through 
the various stages of initiation he acquires a broader and deeper know¬ 
ledge of the nature of his world, of the place of the tribe within it, 
and of die individual within the latter, of the ori^n of the tribe and 
of himself, and of the traditions tdling of these ori^ns, of die nature of 
his world as it at present functions. During the course of tlie pro¬ 
tracted ceremonies of initiation, which take place at intervals over an 
extended period of time, this knowledge is acquired by him in such 
a fashion that it, together with all that he has formerly known, assumes 
for liim a more profound meaning than was ever before possible. 
The extraordinarily mysterious nature of the rites, the practices, and 
the ceremonies in which he participates, the ordeals throu^ which 
he passes, and all that he sees and hears are so surcharged with spiritual 
significances, and ate cmorionally, imaginarively, and intellectually 
so impressive, diat ever afterwards the aifeedve associations thus 
established for the structure and functioning of his unis-erse are to him 
a living and ever pteseni reality. 

The experiences dirough which the individual passes during the 
initiation ceremonies are deeply religious ones during which he comes 
into the closest touch wtdi the spirit forces with which his world is 
filled. The impenetrable veil of the non-appearing whicti lies behind 
the appearance which constitute his experiena is raised for him, he 
is admitted Into the inner mysteries, the penetralia of things, and the 
essence of the non-appearing is made available to him. 

Thus does the content of his mind, as far as his view of the world is 
concerned, come to acquire the deeply mystical character it possesses. 
The content of knowledge thus acquired serves as the standard to wlUch 
all the data of experience are referred for judgment, and since the tradi¬ 
tional teachings consist to a very large extent of judgments and 
interpretations of the nature of experience, that experience is tlwsreforc 


already pnejudged, and so k comes aboui thar the iraduions which 
give experience its meaning are by that experience^ through die medium 
of the individual, confirmed and supported* Tradition and experience 
are reciprocaily and mutally supporting, and the result is that die 
individual's beliefs are constantly recei^dng the confiimaiion of this 
double support. 

We must be careful here, however, not to draw too fine a distinction 
betw^een things that are not quite so finely distinguished by die natives 
tliemselves, for whilst it is true for classificatory purposes that there 
exists a body of traditional knowledge which is recognised as a canon 
having a distinct existence, and which is in the keeping of the elders and 
die initiated men of the tribe, the distinction is an artifidal one, for 
wliai is implied in this knowledge is to a very considerable extent 
actually lived and experienced for liimself by each individual as a 
member of the group whether only in imaginadon or in reality, 
whedier what is experienced is peroepdble to sense or not- What 
reahry is, let it be remembered, depends entirely upon the kingdom 
that is widun